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Harwell Harris 

Interviewed by Judy Stonefield 

Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 

Copyright ^ 1985 
The Regents of the University of California 


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None . 


This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to 
the University Library of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. 


Biographical Summary vii 

Interview History xiii 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (August 15, 1979) 1 

Genealogy of Harris's ancestors--Harr is ' s 
parents settle in Redlands, California — 
Memories of his father--More on the Harris 
family history. 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (August 15, 1979) 22 

High school in San Bernardino — Impact of VJorld 
VJar I on rural California — Attends Pomona 
College and Otis Art Institute — First exposure 
to the work of Frank Lloyd V7r ight--More on 
studies at Pomona College and Otis Art 
Institute — Developing interest in art. 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (August 15, 1979) 41 

Interest in painting and sculpture — Joins the 
Los Angeles Art Students League--Discovers 
Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House. 

[Second Part] (August 22, 1979) 52 

Meets R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra — 
Decides against returning to college--Stud ies 
and works with Richard Neutra — Work in 
connection with the CongrSs Internat ionaux 
d 'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (August 22, 1979) 62 

Work on designs for Neutra 's Rush City 
Reformed — Work on the Lehigh Portland Cement 
airport competition — Comparing the work of 
Schindler and Neutra — The influence of 
California's geography and climate on Harris's 
work . 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (August 22, 1979) 82 

The lure of California for early settlers — The 
particular character of California living — On 


Louis Sullivan--The influence of Frank Lloyd 
Wright on Harri3--Remerabering Frank Lloyd 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (August 23, 1979) 104 

Assessing Wright's later work — Working with 
Gregory Ain--Mixing the influences of Wright 
and Neutra — On Irving Gill — Breaking away from 
Neutra and establishing his own practice — 
Harris's first house: the Lowe House-- 
Collaboration with Carl Anderson — The impact of 
the Depression on the progress of Harris's 
architectural practice. 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (August 23, 1979) 123 

The Laing House — The General Electric 
competition: the theft of Harris's designs-- 
Subsequent publicity and support given to 
Harris by California Arts and Architecture — The 

role of architectural journals in promoting 
California architects — Designs a house for John 
Entenza — The utility core. 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (August 23, 1979) 144 

More on the utility core: its influence on 
hous ing--Jean Harris, her background and 
various interests — Jean Harris's efforts to 
secure recognition for the work of Greene and 
Greene — Jean Harris's interest in work of 
Bernard Maybeck — The influence of Greene and 
Greene on Harris's designs--Schindler ' s Kings 
Road House--Schindler ' s interpretation of 
California living. 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (August 23, 1979) 165 

The direction of architecture in California 
before and after World War II--The postwar 
housing boom in Calif ornia--Neutra ' s finger 
plan school — Shifts in Neutra's design and work 
patterns--Harris ' s technical education-- 
Encounters with immigrant architects: Sigfried 
Giedeon and Jose Sert — Work with the CIAM on 
postwar relief and planning. 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (August 23, 1979) 187 

The limited influence of the International 
Style on Harris's work — On working with a 
client--The organic view of design--On the 
Utopian impulse in modern architecture. 

Index 202 


Harwell Harris, shown with a section of terra 

cotta coping from a partition in the Louis 

Sullivan National Farmers Bank Building in 

Owatonna, Minnesota, 1962 i 

Fellowship Park House, Los Angeles, California, 

193 5 XV 

Havens House, Berkeley, California, 1941 122 




Born: July 2, 1903, in Redlands, California. 

Education : Public schools in Redlands, El Centro, and 
San Bernardino, California; Pomona College, Otis Art 
Institute, Frank Wiggins Trade School. 

Spouse ; Jean Murray Bangs. 


1934 Lowe House, 596 East Punahou , Altadena, California 

1935 Fellowship Park House (Harwell Hamilton Harris 
House), 2311 Fellowship Park Way, Los Angeles, 
Cal if ornia 

Laing House, 1642 Pleasant Way, Pasadena, California 

1936 De Steiguer House, Glen Sumner Road, Pasadena, 

1937 Entenza House, 475 North Mesa Road, Santa Monica, 

Kershner House, Brilliant Way, Los Angeles, 

1938 Bauer House, 2538 East Glenoaks, Glendale, California 

Blair House, 3762 Fredonia Drive, Los Angeles, 

Clark House, Valley View and Seventeenth Street, 
Carmel, California 

Granstedt House, Woodrow Wilson Drive, Hollywood, 

1939 Hawk House, 2421 Silver Ridge, Los Angeles, 

Harris House, 410 North Avenue Sixty-four, Pasadena, 

Pumphrey House, 615 Kingman Avenue, Santa Monica, 

VI 1 

Power House, 5150 La Canada Boulevard, La Canada, 

1940 Comstock House, Del Mar, California 

Grandview Gardens Restaurant, Los Angeles, California 

McHenry House, 6 24 South Holraby Avenue, Los Angeles, 

Sox House, Ridgeview Drive, Menlo Park, California 

1941 Havens House, 255 Panoramic VJay, Berkeley, California 

tJaylor House, 40 Arden Road, Berkeley, California 

Snyder House, 10879 Whipple Street, North Hollywood, 
Cal if ornia 

Treanor House, 343 Greenacres Drive, Visalia, 

1942 Birtcher House, Sea View Drive, Los Angeles, 
Cal ifornia 

Lek House, 1600 Mecca Drive, La Jolla, California 

Meier House, 2240 Lakeshore, Los Angeles, California 

1945 Fellowship Park Studio, Los Angeles, California 

1946 Calvin House, Sitka, Alaska 

Sobieski House, 1420 San Marino Boulevard, San 
Marino, California 

Treanor Equipment Company, Delano, California 

1947 Ingersol Demonstration House, Kalamazoo, Michigan 

1948 Cruze Studio-House, 2340 West Third Street, Los 
Angeles, California 

Johnson House, 10280 Chrysanthemum, Los Angeles, 

Wylie House, 1964 Rancho Drive, Ojai, California 

1949 Loeb House, Redding, Connecticut 

Vl 11 

Mulvihill House, 580 North Hermosa, Sierra Madre, 

1950 Chadwick School, Palos Verdes peninsula, California 

English House, 1260 Lago Vista Drive, Beverly Hills, 

Havens Apartments, Milvia and Blake, Berkeley, 

Ray House, Burma Road, Fallbrook, California 

1951 Elliott House, 10443 Woodbridge, North Hollywood, 

Hardy House, Portuguese Bend Club, Rancho Palos 
Verdes, California 

1952 Cranfill House, 1901 Cliff Drive, Austin, Texas (with 
Eugene George) 

Harwell Hamilton Harris House, Fallbrook, California 
Lang House, 700 Alta Street, San Antonio, Texas 

1953 Duhring House, Greenwood Common, Berkeley, California 
(with Hervey Parke Clark) 

House Beautiful Pace-Setter House, Dallas, Texas 

National Orange Show Exhibition Building, San 
Bernardino, California (with Jerome Armstrong) 

1954 Barrow House, 4101 Edgemont, Austin, Texas 

1956 Antrim House, 6160 North Van Ness, Fresno, California 
Johnson House, 1200 Broad, Fort Worth, Texas 
Motel-on-the-Mountain, Suffern, New York 

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Big Spring, Texas 
Townsend House, 230 Simpson, Paris, Texas 

1957 Kirkpatrick House, 457 Harbor Road, Southport, 

1958 Cranfill Apartments, 1911 Cliff Drive, Austin, Texas 


Eisenberg House, 9624 Rockbrook, Dallas 

National Farmers Bank Building remodeling (a Louis 
Sullivan building), Owatonna, Minnesota (with A. 
Moorman and Company) 

1959 Greenwood Mausoleum, Fort Worth, Texas 

Treanor House, 2617 Oldham Road, Abilene, Texas 

Talbot House, 1508 Dayton Road, Big Spring, Texas 

Woodall House, 808 West Fourteenth Street, Big 
Spring, Texas 

1960 Trade Mart Court, Dallas, Texas 

Havens Memorial Plaza, Berkeley, California 

1961 Wright House, 3504 Lexington, Dallas, Texas 

1963 First Unitarian Church, Dallas, Texas (with Beran and 

Paschal House, 1527 Pinecrest, Durham, North Carolina 

1964 Lindahl House, 305 Clayton Road, Chapel Hill, North 

Security Motor Bank, Owatonna, Minnesota (with Hickey 
and Little) 

1965 North Country School Cottages, Lake Placid, New York 

Pugh House, Kerr Lake, Virginia 

Sweetzer House, Laurel Park, Hendersonville , North 

1966 Van Alstyne House, 1702 Woodburn, Durham, North 

1967 Sugioka House, 1 Bayberry Drive, Chapel Hill, North 

1968/77 Harwell Hamilton Harris Studio and House, 122 Cox 
Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina 

1969 Bryant House, Lake Dam Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 

St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, North 

1970 Bennett House, Jones Ferry Road, Chapel Hill, North 

1978 Cullowhee Presbyterian Church, Cullowhee, North 


Private practice in Los Angeles, 1933-51; Austin, Texas, 
1955-56; Fort Worth, Texas, 1956-58; Dallas, Texas, 1958- 
62; Raleigh, North Carolina, since 1962. 

Member of CIAM (CongrSs Internationaux d ' Architecture 
Moderne), from 1929; secretary, American Chapter, 1930- 
32; secretary. Relief and Postwar Planning Chapter, 1944- 

Lecturer, Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, 1938-39, 

Lecturer, University of Southern California, 1940, 1941, 
1945, 1946. 

Lecturer, Art Center School, Los Angeles, 1941-45. 

Lecturer, Columbia University, 1943-44. 

Professor and Director, School of Architecture, 
University of Texas at Austin, 1951-55. 

Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, 1960-62. 

Professor of Architecture, School of Design, North 
Carolina State University, Raleigh, 1962-73. 


"Harwell Hamilton Harris: A collection of his Writings 
and Buildings" in Student Publication, (School of Design, 
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North 
Carolina), Number 5, 1965. 


First Prize, Class 1-A, Pittsburgh Glass Institute 
Competition, 1937, 1938. 


Honor Award, American Institute o£ Architects, Southern 
California Chapter, 1938. 

Honor Award and Merit Award, Texas Society of Architects, 

Fellow, American Institute of Architects, 1965. 


Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1945, 

San Francisco Museum of Art, 1940, 1942. 

American Federation of Arts, New York, 1947. 

Triennale, Milan, 1957. 

National Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1957; toured Europe, 
Asia, and the United States. 

International Fair, Moscow, 1959. 

Olympiad, Munich, 1972. 

Two Hundred Years of American Architectural Drawing, 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York, 1977; toured Chicago, 
Fort Worth, and Jacksonville, Florida, 1978. 




Judy Stonefield, B.A., Education, UCLA. 

Place: Harris's studio/home in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Dates : August 15, 22, and 23, 1979. 

Time of day, length of sessions, and total number of 
recording hours : Interview sessions were conducted in 
mid-mornmg. They averaged between two and two and one- 
half hours. A total of approximately seven hours of 
conversation was recorded. 

Persons present during the interview : Harris and 
Stonef ield . 


Stonefield prepared for the interview by viewing several 
of Harris's houses, reading articles written by Harris, 
and viewing videotapes in which Harris discusses his 
architecture and philosophy. 

The interview follows a chronological format, tracing 
Harris's life and career up to his move from Los Angeles 
in the late forties. 

Several areas of interest are discussed in detail. Aside 
from basic biographical information, considerable 
attention is given to the influence growing up in 
California had on Harris's architectural concepts. There 
is also some discussion of the architectural history of 
Los Angeles up to World War II, followed by detailed 
discussions and remembrances of Richard Neutra, Rudolf 
Schindler and Frank Lloyd Wright. Other areas of 
discussion which break up the chronological order concern 
Harris's views on particular styles of architecture, on 
architect/client relations, the use of materials, and the 
effects of technology on architecture. 


Teresa Barnett, editorial assistant, edited the 
interview. The verbatim transcript was checked against 

X 1 1 L 

the original tape recordings and edited for punctuation, 
paragraphing, spelling and verification of proper nouns. 
Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been 
bracketed. The final manuscript remains in the same order 
as the taped material. 

In September, 1984, the edited transcript, along with a 
list of queries and names requiring identification, was 
sent to Harris. He approved the transcript and returned 
it in November of the same year. 

The index, table of contents, interview history and 
biographical summary were prepared by George Hodak, 
editorial assistant. 


The original tape recordings of the interview are in the 
university archives and are available under the 
regulations governing the use of permanent, noncurrent 
records of the university. Interview records and research 
materials are on file in the office of the Oral History 


AUGUST 15, 1979 

STONEFIELD: Mr. Harris, I would like to start more or less 
at the beginning. '.vhen you were born and where. 
HARRIS: I was born in 1903, July 2, in Redlands, 
California, the son of two California natives. 
STONEFIELD: And your family came before Redlands from 

HARRIS: My father's father came in 1849 from Virginia by 
way of Tennessee and Texas and was a part of an overland 
tram that took what was called the Gila Trail. He arrived 
in California in time to vote for the constitution of the 
state that was up for adoption. He went to the mines. 
VJhat was that grove near the southern entrance to 
Yosenite? It's the name of a town anyway — Mariposa. [He] 
spent about three months in the mines, then decided he 
could make more money practicing law and gave up mining. 
[He] returned to the East at the time of the Civil l\ar, 
this time traveling by boat around the Horn instead of 
across the plains, and worked his way from New York down to 
Richmond. He was then commissioned to take a group of men 
to Texas because he could speak Spanish. It was thought 
the British were taking advantage of the Civil War to 
injure the nation through [inaudible] the Confederacy. He 
came through the v/ar all right and then returned to 

California after the war was over and lived there all the 

rest of his life. 

3T0NEFIELD: He didn't fight in the war? 

HARRIS: Oh, yes. I don't know how many he killed, but he 

was probably not in the thick of it. 

STONEFIELD: Did you ever know him? 

HARRIS: tlo , he died about six years before I was born. He 

was born in 1824, and I wasn't born until 1903. 

STONEFIELD: He was very old then. 

HARRIS: Well, he was in his early twenties of course in 

1849 when he went to California. 

STONEFIELD: He sounds as if he was quite an adventurer. 

HARRIS: He was a very interesting person, and there is a 

book. The Gila Trail, which was written from his notes and 

his diary, now in the Huntington Library. [The Gila Trail, 

The Texas Argonauts and The California Gold Rush, edited by 

Richard H. Dillon, published by the University of Oklahoma 

Press, 1960] 

STONEFIELD: VJhat was his name? 

HARRIS: Benjamin Butler Harris. He was interested in a 

great variety of things. It was a time in the world when 

it was possible for an educated person to knov; something 

about everything, which seems impossible now, so that his 

interests were very wide, and I'm sorry that I didn't know 

h im. 

STONEFIELD: Had he had any training in the law when he 

decided to take it up? 

HARRIS: Yes, yes, he did. One got into such things rather 

early in those days. He had taught for a year on his way 

west at some college in Tennessee [Springfield Acadeny]. 

And then when gold was discovered in California, and its 

announcement came, he decided to go on. So he went on and 

3oined a group in what is now Dallas. It was then called 

Bryan, which was the name of the man who had the only house 

there. It's an interesting story, the trip overland. 

STONEFIELD: I have trouble keeping track of all of his 

travels in my head. VJhen did he get married and settle 


HARRIS: That was after the war. He was fairly old. 

STONEFIELD: When he came to California? 

HARRIS: No, no. After the Civil War, which would have 

made it after 1865. My father [Franklin Thomas Harris] was 

born in 1875, all the children were born in California. 

STONEFIELD: Where was your father born? 

HARRIS: He was born in San Bernardino, California. 

STONEFIELD: Oh, so your grandfather finally decided to end 

up in California? 

HARRIS: After the war he came to the southern part of the 

state instead of the Mariposa region where he had been 

before. He wrote the first official descriotion of the 

Yosemite Valley. He didn't enter it because it was too 
dangerous. There was a tribe of Indians there that didn't 
let anyone who entered ever return. It was written from 
descriptions of various sorts. And another interesting 
thing, he had a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which 
he won in 1852. It was on behalf of the Indians who had 
been driven out of much of their territory by the influx of 
foreign miners. They were very hard up. The first two 
Indian agents in the country were appointed then, but the 
money appropriated for cattle and the other things that 
were to be provided the Indians went into the agents' own 
pockets. So this was a suit to recover it. He won the 
suit, but of course they didn't get anything, any more than 
[General John] Fremont got damages after winning his suit 
against those who ravished his country looking for gold. 
STOtlEFIELD: He sounds like the sort of character that the 
whole family mythology could have been developed upon. 
What about your grandmother? 

HARRIS: My mother's parents came from South Carolina. 
STONEFIELD: No, what I was talking about was your 
grandfather's wife. 

HARRIS: Oh, I don't know much about her. She was a native 
of Missouri, and I can remember her quite well. 
STONEFIELD: What did she look like? 

HARRIS: I can remember particularly her long curls, which 
[she] would brush and curl around a stick of bamboo. Her 
maiden name was Clark, Bettie Clark. But I really know 
nothing about her. 

STONEFIELD: You don't know how they met or when or where? 
HARRIS: IIo, I didn't pay attention. [laughter] 
STONEFIELD: In those days it wasn't important. 
HARRIS: The Gila Trail, the manuscript for it, is in the 
Huntington Library. One of my father's sisters was rather 
interested in these records. I unfortunately lost material 
that was entrusted to me. One was a large telescoping 
wallet. It was filled with various bits of interesting 
things, including handwritten military orders, or notes 
from a parent that he had received when he taught school 
someplace, and two Pony Express letters. This and various 
other things were unfortunately in a box of stuff that I 
left with my mother. She was living in an apartment, and 
during the two years we \^?ere away in New York she moved. 
The box had been put in the apartment house garage, and 
when we came back and I asked for it, she had forgotten 
about it. It was gone and couldn't be found. This made my 
aunt very angry naturally. 
Well, ask me another. 
STONEFIELD: Now, your mother's family. What about them? 

HARRIS: My mother's father was a colonel in General 
[James] Longstreet's Division of the Confederate Army in 
the Civil War. He was a college student when the war 
started. It was in Wofford College, Spartanburg, South 
Carolina. He met my grandmother who was a student in a 
female seminary in Spartanburg. He was in the fighting or 
in prison the whole four years of the war. I can remember 
because I knew my maternal grandmother perhaps better than 
my paternal one. I can remember my grandfather's sv/ord, 
the Confederate flags and the pictures of my grandfather as 
a colonel in General Longstreet's division. So both sets 
of grandparents were Southerners, and, because they were 
naturalized Cal if ornians , they were more Southern [than if] 
they had remained in the South. 

My mother was born in Orange County. And she lived in 
Los Angeles when she was a young girl on a ten-acre piece 
of property. The house was between what are now ninth and 
Tenth streets and Hope and Olive — it was then called Hope 
and Charity [actually, Grand Avenue was formerly Charity; 
Olive has retained its name]. I can remember her speaking 
about the time when they were trying to get a population of 
75,000 people in Los Angeles. So I'm very much Southern 

STONEFIELD: Well, when your mother's family came in, they 
were planning to farm, is that so? 

HARRIS: Well, they did farm. I think, that's about all a 

"Southern Gentleman" ever learned to do, probably didn't 

learn that very well, I don't know. 

STONEFIELD: V7hat drew them to those particular places, to 

Redlands and to Orange County in particular? 

HARRIS: I don't know. Redlands of course is near San 

Bernardino, where my father opened his practice, then moved 

quickly afterwards, to Redlands, which was rather new and 

where there was a great deal of building for a small 

place. I don't know why my maternal grandparents happened 

to go to Los Angeles when they did. 

STONEFIELD: At that time, the whole Southern California 

area must have been composed of separate very small 

communities. There must have been no focus the way that 

there is now. 

HARRIS: Ilo , there wasn't. A little bit later the Pacific 

Electric lines tied together places as distant as Santa 

Monica and San Bernardino. 

STONEFIELD: And actually this must have been before the 

railroad connected. 

HARRIS: There was an old — What was it called? It was 

called the "dummy," I think. It was a small steam train 

that ran, I guess, between Redlands, or it may have been 

just San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. I can remember it, 

and I can also remember it used to stop in Monrovia. There 

was a horse-drawn car on rails one could see out of the 
window that met the train. 

STONEFIELD: I wonder how your parents net? 
HARRIS: Well, ny father was working in an office in Los 
Angeles. And according to his story, I don't know whether 
it was true or not — 

STONEFIELD: Was he living in Los Angeles at that time? 
HARRIS: Yes, he was quite young. [I'm] trying to remember 
the name of the firm, because at least the name still 
persisted as that of an architectural firm when we lived 
there after 1922. Anyway, according to his story, he saw a 
photograph of my mother in a photographer's studio. My 
mother was a teacher. She taught for six years and she 
taught in what is now Watts. At that time it was made up 
largely of Latin Americans. There was the Dominguez 
family, which was the most important one, and she had 
Dominguez children all through the six years she taught 
there. She drove a horse and buggy to school. What has 
tills got to do with architecture? 

STONEFIELD: Well, it has to do with you. I've forgotten 
to ask you about your parents. You know, their growing up, 
what it was like, where they came from, and where they did 
their growing up mostly. Was it in the places where their 
family had settled? 

HARRIS: Well, I can't tell you a great deal more than I 
have . 

STONEFIELD: VJhen were they born? 

HARRIS: My father in 1375, and my mother in 1876. 
STONEFIELD: Where did they go to school? Did they talk a 
lot about their childhood to you? 

HARRIS: I don't remember any extended talk about it. 
There v;ould be references occasionally. I probably was too 
young to be particularly interested. Except there would be 
occasional things that I would be quite interested in. As 
an example, in driving up through the Ca]on pass, there was 
a cave in the side of it, and my father remarked that my 
grandfather and someone else, John Brown--not the famous 
John Brown, another one — were holed up for three days in 
there, barricaded against the Indians. So that none of 
this seemed terribly long ago to me, and of course it 
wasn't. If we go back to 1849, that would only be fifty- 
four years before I was born. And I've lived more than 
that since then. 

STONEFIELD: After they married, where did they settle? 
HARRIS: They settled in Redlands. Redlands was a very 
interesting town then. It was a sort of a small 
Pasadena. It was made up almost entirely of people who had 
retired or who wintered there. The only business there was 
orange growing, and so many of the orange groves were 

surrounded by paved streets on four sides. It didn't take 
a very big grove to be a very profitable thing in those 
days. There were two brothers that were twins, the Smiley 
twins, who probably did more to influence at least the 
cultural life of Redlands than all others. The park was 
named after them, the public library was named after them, 
not Andrew Carnegie as it was in San Bernardino. 
STONEFIELD: They paid for the library, didn't they? 
VJeren't they responsible for building it? 

HARRIS: Oh, these were gifts from the Smileys, yes. Then 
there was Smiley Heights on the south edge of town. It was 
a very beautiful ridge and divided the valley, in which 
Redlands was, from Riverside County. And it stopped all of 
the hot winds from Riverside County, most of which was 
stony and very desertlike, attractive in that way. On this 
side it was quite lush, and in the lower hills of Smiley 
Heights [there were] very nice houses at the time. 
STONEFIELD: What kind of houses were they mostly? Vvhat 
was the architecture like? 

HARRIS: Well, they belonged very much to that time. They 
were not very reminiscent. There may have been a little 
bit of California mission in there. There was no Spanish 
at that time and there was no Georgian. Mostly they were 
large. Mostly, as I recall them, they were shingled 
houses, brown-shingled, quite large, large porches, and 
quite pleasant. 


STOIJEFIELD: They were mostly gentlemen farmers? 
HARRIS: These were mostly retired people. They mostly 
were members of families at least from Chicago or further 
east. Some from the east coast and many from the Midwest, 
just as Pasadena was. Just as in Pasadena where one could 
go down Orange Grove Avenue and name off dozens of national 
industries, whether it was Bissell carpet sweeper or 
Wrigley chewing gum or whatever it was. 
STONEFIELD: Proctor and Gamble. 

HARRIS: Ivory soap. Gamble of Proctor and Gamble. 
STONEFIELD: What was it like growing up in a community 
like that? 

HARRIS: Well, I had a switch. While I lived in Redlands, 
I spent my first four years of grammar school in the old 
Kingsbury building. I went to kindergarten in a school 
that my father had designed, the [William] McKinley 
school. Then there was a bad freeze in 1912. Freezes and 
depressions and such things mark the history of our 
profession. They always cause a change. Anyway, my father 
had designed quite a number of buildings in the town of El 
Centro which was quite nev/ . W. F. Holt was the developer 
of that. There was another town called Holtville that he 
had started earlier. Holt lived in Redlands. I can 
remember a large watercolor perspective of Mr. Holt's house 
in the office. There was a porte cochere and there was a 


carriage with a pair of horses and a driver under the porte 
cochere. It was what one expected in style, and what we 
called riission, then. My father had been down in El Centro 
on trips for the Holt work there. Then he designed the 
high school in El Centro. 

Then, with the freeze, suddenly everything seemed to 
stop in Redlands, and he decided-- We usually had had one 
ranch or another, we had several, but only one at a time, I 
think, all during my life up to that point. My father was 
always interested in a ranch, although we had never lived 
on one, except sometimes in the summer. He was very 
interested in the Imperial Valley, so he bought a quarter 
section, a hundred and sixty acres, of which only twenty 
acres had been leveled, the rest was still in sand hills. 
And we moved down there. He established his office in the 
town. El Centro, and we lived out on the ranch there. So I 
had the years from ten to fourteen on a ranch, which was an 
ideal time to have them. I'm very glad that I did. 

I went to school in El Centro. I usually rode with my 
father in the car in the morning and I waited for him in 
the Carnegie Library until he went home in the evening. 
That was between the end of school and that time. It was a 
marvelous arrangement because the library had no children's 
division at all. I wandered everywhere, I was my own 
adviser in everything. And I discovered more things. 


either because it was next to something else, or possibly 
for other reasons. 

So those four years there were very valuable. First 
of all, what I learned on the ranch. To begin with, the 
land had to be leveled, and so for maybe six months there 
was a gang of teamsters with Fresno scrapers leveling the 
land. It was a ]ob to do it because-- 
STONEFIELD: What is a Fresno scraper? 

HARRIS: Well, it's a kind that's much more dramatic. It's 
like the difference between riding in a buggy behind a 
horse or riding on the back of the horse. These scrapers 
were large. They had runners on them and they had a very 
long handle with a rope trailing from the end of it. When 
the scraper was empty, it tipped forward on its runners, 
with the handle straight up in the air and the rope 
dangling from it. You had a team of mules in front. The 
teamster would grab the dangling rope when he got ready to 
scoop up more sand. And he would pull the handle back and 
down. He'd take hold of the handle and yell at the mules 
who would hump their backs and pull to fill the scraper, 
and then to drag it to the place they dumped it. It was a 
constant movement back and forth, picking up sand here and 
dumping it there, and, in between each way, the teamster 
just trailing lazily along behind the scraper. 


Well, anyway, there was a whole camp of them, men and 
animals. They set up camp, did their own cooking out in 
the sand hills there. I used to go out and spend time 
watching them. I was ten at the time. In the beginning 
they had a regular cook, but the regular cook left. So 
someone else had to do the cooking. There was one they 
called Shorty, and because he had a sore foot and he had 
trouble walking, they let him do the cooking. He knew 
nothing about it. [laughter] They were accustomed to 
eating anything. Well, anyway, it was an interesting four 
years down there. 

STONEFIELD: What kind of ranching was it? 
HARRIS: Well, it was first of all planting alfalfa and 
planting corn, milo maize it was called, Indian corn, or 
mostly that. First of all, the problem was to hold the 
land. The winds, which were quite strong and constant, 
would move the sand around. VJhere there was no sand hill 
yesterday, there could be one today, pretty good sized one, 
simply because of the wind and because there happened to be 
something there, might have been a big tumbleweed or 
something else that the sand would form around, form 
behind. So one had to order water, which was delivered by 
canals, at such times that, when a certain amount of 
grading had been finished, one could get water on it to 
hold it. Well, there was the problem of keeping the wind 


from blowing the sand away, and there was the other problem 
of keeping the birds from eating the seeds before it could 
get covered, watered, and growing. 

Alfalfa was planted in addition to the corn. Then in 
the last year or two-- Oh, yes, we had hogs at one time, 
registered Duroc Jersey hogs, and I used to ride over on a 
sled to a neighboring dairy to pick up huge barrels of 
skimmed milk there which we would take back on the sled for 
the hogs. And what else did we do? 

STOHEFIELD: Your father sounds as if he has a little of 
your grandfather in him. What makes an architect take up 
ranching? It sounds like such a complicated change. 
HARRIS: Well, I don't know. I suppose he had simply 
become rather attached to it as a young boy. When he was 
quite young, I remember, he went up into-- What was the 
name of that? Hollow something. There was later a dairy 
there that used that name. It was out near Loma Linda. 
Anyway, he planted a crop of something or other when he was 
quite young. He was always interested in it. 

We had an apple ranch up beyond Beaumont, quite a 
large one. I can remember, when I was about six years old, 
our occasional trips there, usually over a weekend or it 
might be during the summer holidays, from Redlands up to 
the ranch. We would get up at two-thirty in the morning so 
that we could get started in the horse and buggy and arrive 


before the sun was too hot. We would arrive by about 
eleven o'clock if we started early. And I can remember 
trying to pull on long stockings over long underwear and my 
eyes so full of sleep I couldn't see what I was doing. 

Anyway, we spent time up there and that was fun too. 
Then, we had a ranch later out in Arizona, one that I never 
visited. The one in Imperial Valley, near El Centro, is 
the only one that we ever lived on. Anyway, this was 
always a drain on what profits one managed to make from 
architecture. They never made money. 
STONEFIELD: On the ranching. 
HARRIS: Yes. Never. It always cost. 

STONEFIELD: What was your father like? What did he look 

HARRIS: Well, he was maybe half an inch taller than I, he 
was the smallest in his family. His features and mine were 
very much alike. He grew bald sooner than I did. 
STONEFIELD: When you think of him, what are your 
impress ions? 

HARRIS: Well, of course, I think of him as my father more 
than anything else. I don't think of him particularly as 
an architect. 
STONEFIELD: Why is that? 

HARRIS: Well, I wasn't the least bit interested in 
architecture during his life. I wasn't any more than I'd 


be interested in anything else that went on under my nose 

in the house and that I saw everyday and found nothing 

unusual about it. 

STONEFIELD: vJhat kind of a personality did he have? 

HARRIS: Well — 

STONEFIELD: That's hard to answer. 

HARRIS: I've had plenty of time to think about it. Well, 

he was not either an introverted or an extroverted person 

in particular, I don't think. He was probably no more 

aggressive than I am. He was very much liked by people. 

STONEFIELD: Did he have a lot of friends? 

HARRIS: Well, he had quite a number, but they were nearly 

all persons that he came in contact with in ordinary 

matters of daily-life living. He didn't travel to speak 

of. He en3oyed hunting, which I don't care for, at least 

now. I did a little bit when I was very young. 

STONEFIELD: What kind of schooling did he have? Did he 

study architecture formally? 

HARRIS: No. Very few architects in those days had 

architectural schooling. He had neither architectural 

schooling nor schooling beyond the high school. His father 

wasn't at all interested in his-- Even though his father 


STONEFIELD: Practiced law and — 


HARRIS: Practiced law, who had degrees and had taught in 
colleges . 

STOMEFIELD: Why was that? 

HARRIS: I don't think his father thought it was very 
important. Probably didn't think — You didn't get much out 
of it. 

STONEFIELD: Having tried it, he decided it wasn't worth 

HARRIS: You could learn on your own. I don't know whether 
that's what affected me. You see, I never went beyond the 
second year of college. Then I stayed out a year, I was 
sick, and went to Otis Art Institute to fill in my time; 
became interested in sculpture; stayed on a year longer; 
then discovered Frank Lloyd Wright, which was my discovery 
that architecture could be interesting; then had the 
transcript to my record at Pomona College sent up to 
Berkeley; was ready to enter in the fall, when I met 
[Richard J.] Neutra. And Neutra persuaded me that I would 
learn more working for him and taking technical courses at 
night, which I proceeded to do. And I think I did learn 
more. And I think it was faster in every way, except the 
matter of getting a license to practice, which, of course, 
is much more difficult when you don't have a degree. 
STONEFIELD: So actually, you agree with your father's--? 


HARRIS: I'm inclined to. I think probably anyone is apt 

to think that whatever he did was the best, regardless of 

what it happens to be. 

STONEFIELD: But how did he get into architecture then? I 

mean what led him in that direction? 

HARRIS: I don't know what first interested him in it. I 

think he probably became interested in building. I don't 

know what he may have done that led him to architecture. I 

can remember some letter, I don't remember whether it was 

from him to his father or his father to him, while he was 

in this office in Los Angeles learning the rudiments of 

architecture. Then he returned to San Bernardino and very 

quickly married and moved to Redlands. 

STONEFIELD: What was your mother like? What did she look 


HARRIS: Well, she was the smallest in her family. Both 

were not large families for the time, but larger than most 

are now. My mother had three sisters and two brothers, so 

there were six in the family. In my father's family there 

were three brothers and three sisters, one brother died 

when he was very young. 

STONEFIELD: Did they all live in Southern California 

during this period? 

HARRIS: Most of the time, yes. My mother's oldest brother 

when he was still quite young went to Bellingham, 


Washington. He became the owner of a very large department 
store there and lived there until he retired and came back 
to Los Angeles. And, let's see, the other brother lived in 
Los Angeles. I can't remember what he did. 
STONEFIELD: Was the family close? 

HARRIS: Not particularly, no. Occasionally there would be 
something, a dinner reunion or something, when they would 
be together, but not very much. More, T guess, in the case 
of my mother's family than my father's. It was pretty much 
a hit-and-miss affair as far as my father was concerned. 
My grandfather was rather interested in the family and had 
traced the tree from the first William Harris who — 
STONEFIELD: This was your father's father. 
HARRIS: Yes, who arrived in Jamestown between 1680 and 
1685. He enjoyed telling that he [the first William 
Harris] was traded for a pumpkin. He was Welsh and, like 
others who were kidnapped and brought over as labor, he was 
kidnapped. Because he was ]ust a small boy, he wasn't 
worth very much. I don't know how they happened to pick 
him up, but anyway they did. So the captain, according to 
my grandfather's story sold him to a farmer for a 
pumpkin. Anyway, he lived with a family, there were two 
families, Templeton and Overton. And those two names keep 
recurring — 
STONEFIELD: Where was this? 


HARRIS: This was in Virginia. These keep recurring 

throughout the life of the family ever since then. Two of 

ny father's brothers, one was named Templeton, the other 

was named Overton. 

STONEFIELD: He was an indentured servant then or — ? 

HARRIS: Yes. But it didn't amount to anything, I think, 

for a pumpkin. 

STOtJEFIELD: He must have good feelings about them to name 

children after them. 

HARRIS: Yes. He married an Overton daughter. 


AUGUST 15, 1979 

STONEFIELD: What about the period after you were 
fourteen? You sort of brought me up to the time that you 
were on the ranch. 

HARRIS: Well, when the United States entered World War I 
in March 17, 1917, my father decided to sell the ranch. We 
returned, not to the Redlands but to San Bernardino, and he 
opened an office there. I spent four years of high school 
in San Bernardino. 

STONEFIELD: What was that like? What was the school like 
that you went to? 

HARRIS: Well, there was only one high school in town. I 
believe the population of San Bernardino at the time was 
somewhere around 30,000; it wasn't terribly large. There 
were maybe 750 in the high school, ]ust under a thousand. 
And I had some very good teachers there. There's one in 
particular that I have talked about. I don't know whether 
I spoke about him in any of that material I sent you or 

STONEFIELD: I don't think so. 

HARRIS: He was a history teacher. He had retired as a 
university professor, I think it was from Clark 
University. That was the university that the psychologist 
G. Stanley Hall was the first head of. He brought men 
like — iJow my memory is going bad on me. 


STONEFIELD: I'm putting you on the spot. 
HARRIS: The first and most famous psychoanalyst. 

HARRIS: Yes, Freud, and Adler, and Jung. I've seen a 
picture of them all at one time at Clark. He did a great 
deal that no other university had done. It always remained 
small. Anyway, the only thing that affects me is that this 
man, Professor [Gideon] Knopp, the history professor, had 
retired and he had come to California to spend his 
remaining days cultivating a garden. The garden was an 
orange grove out in Mentone. That's east of Redlands, yes, 
toward Yucaipa. Whenever I can think of something, I'm so 
pleased to remember it I can't help saying it, whether it's 
really important to the story or not. Well, anyway, Knopp 
very quickly got tired of cultivating his garden, and he 
left his wife to do that and moved into San Bernardino 
where he took a job in the high school there. He lived 
during the week at the YMCA and taught history. 

The important thing is that history, as he saw it, 
took in every kind of thing that man had ever done or 
thought. So the range of things that were talked about was 
enormous, and he talked about them in a more interesting 
way than any teacher I've ever had. He was better than any 
college teacher I ever had by far. He dropped hints, 
suggestions, all through his lectures. They were done very 


carefully, and afterwards I would rush off to the library 
to look up something that he had talked about that sounded 
terribly interesting. I never read ny textbook. I was 
always reporting on what I had discovered in sone other 
book in the library. And this ran through a great variety 
of things. It was a most carefully prepared lecture, 
too. His forty-five minute high school periods were marked 
by lectures, but they didn't seem like lectures at all. I 
felt always as though I was accompanying an explorer some 
place, and as he discovered something I was right there to 
discover it too. Then as he came to the end of the period, 
he began going over what we had discovered in this, and so 
he summed it up in a very effective way. 

STOUEFIELD: He was teaching you how to discover knowledge 
for yourself. 

HARRIS: Yes, this was the important thing. Then another 
thing I remember, I had him in U.S. history and I didn't 
have him either for English history or medieval-modern 
history. I had him in, what was there, sone other course 
that they managed to work in. We got off, though, into all 
sorts of discussions that ordinarily we would have found in 
courses in economics and sociology. The material each 
week, at least in one of these courses, was put in a 
paper. Writing these papers was the best exercise in 
writing I've ever had because I wanted so terribly to make 


clear what I was saying. And so I am rather disposed to 
favor the writing of papers, at least when they are on 
subjects that are important and are not just composition 
excercises . 

STONEFIELD: They involve some kind of creative research. 
HARRIS: Yes. You're just trying your hardest and you're 
thinking about the effect you are making on the mind of the 
person who will read it, and whether you're making it clear 
or not. So I really got more, I think, out of English 
composition in Professor Knopp's class than I got out of 
composition in the English classes. Although I had a very 
good English teacher too. Anyway, this was the most 
important part of my high school, I think, and can really 
be summed up in that experience, particularly Professor 
Knopp. I had a chum, Ryland Thomason, who was a year older 
than I, but he had stayed out of school a year, and so when 
I became a sophomore he was a sophomore. We went through 
school together, many of the classes together, and we 
played tricks together on some of our teachers. 
STONEFIELD: What kind of tricks? I'm afraid to ask. 
HARRIS: Well, I can remember a plane geometry teacher. I 
feel awfully sorry for her now. We called her "Pinky." She 
dyed her hair. And in class one of as would proceed to 
demonstrate that the theorem could be proved by another 
method than the one in our Wentworth text. And we'd go 


through the demonstration, and we'd get her to agree, "Yes, 
it can be proved that way." Then one of us would 
immediately jump up and prove that it was all wrong, which 
made her wrong too. This was really tough. Then we were 
both on the debating team together, and I remember we had a 
coach that was constantly being confused by us. But we 
stimulated one another in various ways, not only in the 
things that we learned together, but also in certain other 
things. Anyway, these are the two features of ny high 
school years that I remember. Professor Knopp and Ryland 

STOMEFIELD: Were there other friends — ? 
HARRIS: Yes, but they weren't nearly as important. 
STONEFIELD: What was it like being an adolescent in those 

HARRIS: Well, we never thought about it. We knew the 
meaning of the word, but — 

3T0NEFIELD: You weren't separated from the rest of the 
community the way that we now do? 

HARRIS: No. Matter of identity, that was something that 
was a preposterous question. We knew who we were, 

STONEFIELD: Things were more certain in those days. 
Wasn't it considered a transition period, the way that it 
is now? On your way to something else? Not quite one 
thing or the other? 


HARRIS: Well, the world and the country had been through 
transitions that were so much more striking and upsetting 
than anything personal could be. See, this was World War 
I. I entered high school about five months after we 
entered World War I, and, although we were slow in getting 
in, we armed ourselves and got into the thick of it, very, 
very quickly. We had military training. It's true that we 
had no guns or uniforms. 'We drilled in gym suits with 
wooden wands the first year. The second year we had guns 
and uniforms, but then the war ended in only a few months. 
STONEFIELD: Did you feel as if everyone was personally 
involved in the war, was that the way it was? 
HARRIS: Oh yes, there was no way of escaping that. There 
were all sorts of drives. Whenever I see this old James 
Montgomery Flagg poster, "I want you," I always remember it 
in World War I when it was first used. 

STONEFIELD: Did you know people who were actually in the 

HARRIS: Yes, yes. One was very much aware of that. I had 
no relatives who were actually in the conflict. I 
remember, very shortly after the war was over, a hospital 
train came through town with wounded on it. And someone, I 
remember it was a fellow student, persuaded me to go down 
along with others and walk through the train. It's a thing 
I never would have thought of doing and I don't know why I 


was persuaded to do it. But I did, and I came across a 
former student that I had known down in Imperial Valley in 
grammar school. He'd got in combat. He was terribly 
young, even though he was a bit old when in grammar school, 
and he was wounded. Also, I can remember right after the 
war was over when the train came through with Marshall Foch 
on it, and I can remember going down to the station to hear 
him address us in French. I can remember many visitors 
that we had come to arouse enthusiasm for the war. Some 
were French and some were British. I can remember a young 
Britisher. V>Je didn't have as many English people around as 
one would now, so that if it was a British accent or any 
other mannerism it would be much more striking to us. And 
I can remember the high school assemblies for various 
reasons, but many of them concerned with the war. I can 
remember one visitor who was a poet, I don't remember his 
name. Anyway, he talked about the young English poets. 
This was the time when we were hearing "Poppies grow on 
Flander field." James, I want to say James Joyce, no, what 
was the Joyce — ? 
STONEFIELD: Joyce Kilmer. 

HARRIS: Yes. I can remember his talk was entitled "The 
New Elizabethans." And I can remember a woman, a miniature 
painter, who was there and talked. For support of 
something, she sold little black-and-white photographs of 


this miniature portrait of, not Foch who was the commander, 
but who was the other French leader? I can't remember his 
name now. I can remember her leading us in various 
songs. There were all the war songs, "Over There" and 
"Beautiful Katie," and all of these things. I remember the 
meetings down in the city park. Pioneer Park, too, and 
singing "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and 
smile, smile, smile." I remember all these things. So, 
the first two years were very much filled with all of this 
sort of activity going on. No one had time to think about 
anything personal, we were all in it pretty much 

One thing that I think of with some revulsion, and it 
was something I experienced at the time, was the anti- 
German feeling. Germans who had been admired and liked and 
praised, treated with every consideration, suddenly were 
the enemy, and nothing that you could say or do seemed to 
be too bad. How people could change so quickly I don't 
know. But they did. 

STOtlEFIELD: These were people that you knew in the 
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. 

STONEFIELD: And how were they treated? What happened to 


HARRIS: Oh, well, they were ridiculed. I remember a 
person's garden, it was actually a victory garden — Did we 
call them victory gardens in that war? They had a 
different name for them in the Second World War. Anyway, 
driving trucks and things through it, :)ust smashing it up, 
doing other things, ]ust to express their hatred of the 
owner with a German name. I can remember attending a 
reading, we had such things as readings in those days. I 
don't remember the title of it, but it was anti-German 
propaganda. Efficiency became a swear word. Propaganda 
was first heard I think, by Americans, certainly by any 
that I knew, in World War I, and it was considered a German 
word. Propaganda and efficiency described Germans, and 
because it was German, was something that we despised. 
These are just queer things, but they tell something about 
the attitude that occurred. Anyway, the war was enough to 
occupy ourselves. We weren't occupied with our own 
problems and difficulties. 

STONEFIELD: I wonder if, this is changing totally, if your 
education in high school, did anything towards pushing you 
towards the arts, the sculpture, the architecture later on. 
HARRIS: Not very much. I used to draw cartoons 
occasionally when I was a high school student. I took a 
freehand drawing course as a college student because I 
thought I had time for it. But I hadn't reached the ooint 


by the time my father died of deciding what I was going to 
do for a career. I had been the morning newspaper, the San 
Bernardino Daily Sun's high school correspondent in my 

senior year, and I thought perhaps I wanted to be a 

journalist. But, as I say, I dropped out of college for a 

year — it turned out to be permanently — because of bad 

health, and went to Otis Art Institute, now called Los 

Angeles County School of Art or Institute of Art, I 

think. It was the old Harrison Gray Otis house that it was 

in, right where Wilshire Boulevard at that time ended, at 

Westlake Park, now called MacArthur Park. 

3T0NEFIELD: I think it's still there, isn't it? 

HARRIS: It may be. They had once added on to it, but I 

don't know whether they later destroyed the old house or 


STONEFIELD: I think it is a new building. 

HARRIS: Anyway, I became quite interested in drawing and 

particularly in sculpture and stayed on for a second 

year. Something else I suppose I should say, after the war 

there was a great change. And what emerged was something 

that had probably been developing underground for a good 

many years. But it wasn't until the war was over and the 

surface had been disturbed as much as it had that these 

things came out. Some of them, of course, were much 

earlier but were not widespread, whether you're talking 


about psychoanalysis or literature or painting. I can 
remember the first reproductions of paintings, the first by 
[Paul] Gauguin that I saw. Anyway, there was something new 
that distinguished all the arts and seemed to relate them 
to one another, relate each art more closely to every other 
art than to the same art of another period. 
STONEFIELD: Did you feel this at that time? Were you 
aware of it at all? 

HARRIS: Yes. Very much so. Very much so. Probably in a 
very exaggerated way. 

STONEFIELD: When did you first become aware of this, when 
you were studying art or--? 

HARRIS: Well, I suppose it was beginning when I was still 
a student at Pomona College, although it was when I was at 
Otis that this really became widespread in my own 
recognition of it. I was then more conscious of other 
fields, and of course these new expressions were being 
proclaimed rather loudly. And it was new, that was the 
important thing, and we were glorying at what was new 
without feeling any necessity of having to destroy the 
old. We just left the old behind us. That was our-- 
STONEFIELD: It was a new age. 

HARRIS: Which made it a much healthier thing. There was 
no combativeness involved in this at all. It was a new 
age. That was it. 


STONEFIELD: Was there any interest in art in your family? 

HARRIS: No. Mo . 

STONEFIELD: Did your father have any interest, I mean that 

was related to the architecture, did he draw or did he do 

his own--? 

HARRIS: Not very much, no. His interest was probably more 

in construction. 

STONEFIELD: Did he do the graphic part of the architecture 


HARRIS: Yes, yes. I mean he was a good architect, but he 

wasn't an outstanding one in any way. He never thought of 

it as being something that you could be outstanding in, 

probably. [laughter] 

STONEFIELD: How did you feel about the buildings that he 

des igned? 

HARRIS: Well, some of them I liked, some of them I didn't 

think were very distinguished. And as I say, I don't think 

that it was a subject that he was, what do you say, very 

strongly interested in. I mean he enjoyed the practice of 

architecture, but I don't think that he had any thought of 

making any great thing out of it. And that may have had 

something to do with my not being more excited about it. 

As I've said it wasn't until I had seen a building by 
Frank Lloyd Wright and before I'd even heard his name. 
There was a fellow student, a girl in my class, sculpture 


class, at Otis. She and her husband were building a house 
nd she mentioned this fact and then she mentioned that the 
rchitsct was Lloyd Wright. I didn't flick an eyelash, and 
he said, "the son of Frank Lloyd Wright." VJell, I didn't 
know who Frank Lloyd Wright was either. She said, "The 
house by him up on Olive Hill, why don't you go up and see 
it?" So, Saturday I wandered up there, more just because I 
thought she'd ask me if I done it or not. I didn't expect 
to be interested in it, because architecture is not art. 
It is ]ust a mixed thing. It couldn't be art. It couldn't 
be pure enough to be art. But this was the great 

3T0NEFIELD: This was like your teacher in high school. 
HARRIS: Yes. Well, I had had one other great 
revelation. I don't know whether that was anything that I 
sent you or not. This was when I was still a high school 
student. It was during the spring vacation that I was 
spending in the cabin we had up in the mountains up above 
San Bernardino. Oh, this ties in again with Professor 
Knopp, Gideon Knopp. He had got me interested in 
evolution. But Darwin, and Spencer in particular, were 
more than I could handle very well. So he put me on to — 
What was his name? He came to a number of conclusions that 
Darwin had come to, before Darwin's had been published at 
all. But he wrote very well, and this was a book called 


Social Environment and Moral Progress. I'll think of his 
name in a minute — it was Alfred Russel Wallace. Anyway, 
this was vacation, and I was sitting on the side of the 
canyon up there reading the book, when suddenly I saw 
evolution in a way I'd never seen it before. I mean this 
was a case in which the heavens opened and you see it 
spread out in front of you in all its glory. 
STONEFIELD: Sudden illumination, right. 
HARRIS: I don't remember why I got into this. It had 
something to do with what I was talking about. Anyway, it 
was another, oh yes, a revelation, as Hollyhock House had 
been a revelation. 

STONEFIELD: It's exciting when all of these facts come 
together into some kind of a whole. Instead of being 
separate and disconnected, then they mean something. 
HARRIS: There's meaning. You see a pattern that 
encompasses everything, whether it's a pattern of thought 
or a pattern of operation. Anyway, it becomes universal. 
STONEFIELD: And you see yourself in relation to it also. 
HARRIS: Yes, you see yourself as — You rather glory in 
your part in it. 

HARRIS: Not just as a soldier in the ranks, but as an 
organism in a still larger organism. 


STONEFIELD: Now this was all in high school that this 


HARRIS: That was in high school, yes. 

STONEFIELD: When you decided to go to Pomona, what did you 

study there? 

HARRIS: Well, I was taking largely, of course, what one 

would have to take in the first two years there, although, 

as I say, I hadn't decided what I was going to do for a 

career. I took the customary freshman subjects. In this 

case I added Latin, which I hadn't had in high school, 

and — Let's see, I'll have to jump around, I can't remember 

the two years very fully. An introduction to general 

psychology, which was my first. I had a course in 

sociology as a sophomore, and I think it was probably on 

account of some of the things that I heard in Knopp's high 

school class that I did that. Here again we wrote papers 

every week. This was a large class, as such classes are 

apt to be. 

STONEFIELD: What was large? 

HARRIS: Well, at least a hundred. But I wrote these 

papers-- Oh, yes, and just at this time, I guess it was as 

a freshman in college, not in high school, I again found 

something in the library. In this case, I had gone to get 

a book of Ibsen plays, and next to it was George Bernard 

Shaw's Quintessence of Ibsenism, which I took. That 


started me off, as you can imagine, on a whole new thing. 

I became a very strong admirer of Shaw, tried to write as 

he did in his prefaces, and this probably had a great deal 

to do with what I wrote for the sociology class. 

STONEFIELD: You said that what sort of ended your career 

at Pomona was that you became ill. 


STONEFIELD: What happened exactly? 

HARRIS: Well, I had just lost weight, I lost energy. I 

went through the first year at Otis and then went down to 

spend the summer with a girl cousin, a married cousin of 

mine, in the San Diego mountains — she was about ten years 

older than I--to try to recover from it. I came back and 

spent two or three months at Otis and then dropped out 

again and went down to Imperial Valley, where an aunt and 

uncle were living, and was there until the beginning of 

summer. I came back and then reentered Otis and went on. 

STONEFIELD: Was your father still alive during this 


HARRIS: No, my father died in my freshman year of college, 

died in the spring of 1922. I had entered college in the 

fall of '21. 

STONEFIELD: You know I never asked you. Did you have any 




STONEFIELD: You didn't. You were an only child? 

HARRIS: That probably had something to do, the fact that I 

spent more of my life around adults than I would have, that 

probably — 

STONEFIELD: I think that tends to make you find your own 

amusements a little more readily. 

HARRIS: Well, it made me a little more solitary, and it 

also probably gave me a connection with the ideas, ideals, 

and manners of a slightly earlier period, too. I know I'm 

inclined to think of myself as really being nineteenth 

century instead of twentieth. 

STONEFIELD: Not in your work certainly. Now I've lost my 

train of thought. So that you graduated from high school, 

you went to Pomona, and then somehow or other you moved to 

Los Angeles and started at the Otis Institute and that was 

disrupted. That was actually a big change, from Pomona to 

Otis. What sort of led you to change your direction that 


HARRIS: Well, I guess some part in that change in 
direction may have been owing to the fact that, following 
my father's death, my mother went to live with her older 
sister and family in Los Angeles. So I had been going on 
occasional weekends and vacation from Claremont to Los 
Angeles to be with her. And Otis was there and the change 
was done without any particular thought. I suppose it was 
a convenient thing to do. 


STONEFIELD: But you had not had really any art training 
before then. There must have been some kind of a-- 
HARRIS: I had had a one-hour course at Pomona. As I 
recall, it was just a freehand drawing course. 
STONEFIELD: Were you just sort of feeling for something 
that was going to get you excited that way that your high 
school studies had done? 

HARRIS: Well, I hadn't expected it to lead to a career in 
any way. I had discovered, as I mentioned, a Gauguin, in a 
reproduction in Century Magazine, it must have been about 
1921. And then I discovered in the secondhand bookstores, 
the Holmes secondhand bookstores in Los Angeles at the 
time, copies of the-- What's this magazine? It was largely 
literary. It was the most avant garde of all at that 
time — Oh yes. The Dial. And each month there was a single 
colored reproduction in it. A [Paul] Cezanne or [Paul] 
Gauguin or similar in it. So I began haunting the Holmes 
secondhand bookstores to buy these things. 

There was an exhibition in 1925, now this is along 
toward the end of my time at Otis, that was assembled by 
the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art out at 
Exposition Park. It was called the Pan-American 
Exhibition. I remember I made a design cover for the 
catalog. It wasn't used. A classmate of mine, Anders 
Aldrin made the one that was actually used. But I saw 


there a Diego Rivera, a real one. Now I had seen some 
black-and-white reproductions a few months earlier in a 
little Mexican magazine called Arquitectura or El 
Arquitecto, that someone had left by accident in Los 
Angeles Public Library, which was before the library got 
into the Goodhue building that is now being destroyed I 
understand. The library then was down in the Metropolitan 
Building which was across from Pershing Square, then called 
Central Park. No, it was changed to Pershing Square in 
World War I, so it's name had already been changed. My 
mother still called it Central Park. Anyway, this copy of 
El Arquitecto or Arquitectura that I found there had, along 
with photographs, had-- 


AUGUST 15, 1979 

HARRIS: Included in the pages of the magazine were 
photographs in black and white of Diego Rivera's murals 
for, I don't think it was the ministry of education, I 
don't think that had been built at that time. I think it 
was something else. Anyway, I was very much taken with 
them, and I took the magazine to school and showed it to 
various ones, all of whom wanted copies of it. So I sat 
down then to write the editor of the magazine requesting 
six copies. I wrote it in my own best Spanish. Then I 
took it to a South American, a Colombian student who was 
there, and got him to proof it, and then a Spanish priest 
came in and so I took it to him. So he put the final 
touches on it. Well, I got back from the editor of El 
Arquitecto a request that I become his North American 
correspondent. [laughter] 

STONEFIELD: So you were back in journalism again. 
HARRIS: I was afraid I wouldn't have all this help later, 
so I didn't go ahead with it. But, anyway, I became very 
much interested. And then I saw my first original Diego 
Rivera in this Pan-American show. Much later, at the time 
of the exposition in San Francisco, in '39 I guess it was, 
Rivera was there and painted a large mural out where 
everyone could watch him work on it, and I met him at that 


time. A friend of ours, Emmy Lou Packard; whose father had 
been an engineer in Mexico and who had grown up practically 
in Diego Rivera's studio, had us to dinner with Rivera. 
Then much later, after I had gone to the University of 
Texas as director of the school of architecture there, I 
took a class of twenty-one to Mexico City to the Eighth 
Pan-American Congress of Architects which was being held on 
the new campus of the [National Autonomous] University of 
Mexico. None of the buildings were finished. We held our 
meetings in the biggest of the frontones there. Anyway, I 
met Rivera again. Well, then there were others that came 
along. Then there was the whole — Well, I'm not following 
this in a very good order. Anyway, my interest in painting 
and sculpture slightly preceded my interest in 
architecture. And — 

STONEFIELD: Had you been to very many museums? I imagine 
there weren't very many around in those — 
HARRIS: No, no. 
STONEFIELD: In Los Angeles. 

HARRIS: No, this show that the museum, Los Angeles County 
Museum, put on there was the biggest one that I had ever 
seen. I'd never been in San Francisco at that time. I 
hadn't seen anything there. So everything was through 
books and magazines. In the library at Otis, there were 
some German architectural magazines that gave me a first 
glimpse of modern European work. 


STONEFIELD: The art or the architecture? 

HARRIS: The architecture I'm thinking of right now. I was 
interested. Then in the Los Angeles public library I came 
across a little thin book by Eric Mendelsohn with those 
expressionist drawings that he had made during the war 
years. They had interested me very much as drawings and as 
shapes. Not as buildings however. 

STONEFIELD: Did they not seem possible as buildings or — ? 
HARRIS: Well, they seemed too arbitrary to work as 
buildings. Of course there was the Einstein Tower that had 
come along, but I didn't see that. It was a few years I 
think after that before it was published. Then when I 
discovered the Wright building, I immediately went to the 
Los Angeles library department — I was now familiar with it 
for other reasons. And, very fortunately, it had the 
Wasmuth two-part folio of the Wasmuth Collection of Wright 
drawings. Nothing could have been more perfect for me to 
have seen at that time. The drawings were every bit as 
good, perhaps even better, than photographs might have 
been. And they were just as real as any photograph could 
be. And the fact they were all drawn in the same way-- 
STONEFIELD: They're very beautiful too. 

HARRIS: This made, yes, made them even more powerful. And 
then a year or two later the Dutch architectural magazine, 
Wendingen I think it was called, published very beautifully 


the Life Work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was the life work 
up to 1923. 

STONEFIELD: They didn't know. 

HARRIS: It was the most important, however, by far. It 
could have all stopped there and he would have been just as 
great in my estimation. So the Los Angeles library was a 
very valuable thing to me. I had discovered other things 
there too in painting and drawing. I perhaps should have 
mentioned one thing I have forgot. And that was while I 
was still at Otis I joined a group called the Los Angeles 
Art Students League which S. flacDonald-Wr ight was the head 
of. It was a very informal sort of thing, and we met in a 
little room--of course there were two, maybe three, rooms-- 
up on the third floor of a building on Uorth Spring Street, 
in about the 200 block, I guess. And MacDonald-Wr ight 
was-- Who was his sidekick? Morgan Russell. As young boys 
in 1911, they went to Europe. They were painters, and 
Thomas Benton was also along and part of that group. 
Anyway, they found that to be anybody there you had to 
establish a school, a school of art. So they established 
the school of synchromism, painting with color, and W'right 
was marvelous. It was color that was structure as well as 
harmony. But he was a marvelous draftsman, too. I mean 
that in figure drawing one would think that Michelangelo 
couldn't have done as well. [laughter] Really. Anyway, 


there was a group of maybe six or eight. There were not 
always that many. There were some that came and more or 
less sat around and looked. Usually there were probably 
about six of us all together. The two best of the group 
were James Redman and Al King. I think Al King is still 
living, I'm not sure. Anyway, this was a side matter that 
I forgot to mention and thought that it should be in 
here. Then I remember that at the Los Angeles Philharmonic 
Auditorium one afternoon there was a demonstration by 
Thomas Wilfred of his color organ. 
STONEFIELD: What was that? 

HARRIS: Well, this was abstract painting with colored 
light. And he had a rather complicated machine, the 
clavilux, I believe he called it. It was extremely 
interesting. I think, aside from the few of us from Otis 
who went down, there was no one else there. He spoke of it 
not only as a tool for the construction of abstractions 
with colored light, which would be the most abstract of 
course of all, but also its use in the theater to construct 
a background, which could be done. The unfortunate thing 
about it I decided as I watched it was that he would build 
a composition, but he couldn't go beyond a certain point, 
without first dissolving what he had already built in order 
to re-use the keys. So you'd see the whole thing 
dissolving. I thought that was very upsetting. Much, much 


later he came back and--oh, I don't know, this must have 
been six years or more later — he came back, and this time 
the auditorium was filled. It was a night performance, and 
he had overcome that particular feature of it I had 
disliked. But this is something that belongs along with 
synchromism. I suppose there are things that are just as 
exciting now, but these were the things that were exciting 
to me at that particular time. And because it was new, and 
we thought that something was being realized that had never 
been realized before. It was something that was happening 
in all of the arts. 

STONEFIELD: A unity of purpose in amongst the arts. 
HARRIS: Well, it was simply expressing that unity, which 
of course is the purpose of all art--to unify, to resolve 
contradictions and difficulties, to make everything work as 
in the "harmony of the spheres," I guess. [laughter] 
STONEFIELD: When you were going to Otis where did you 
1 ive? 

HARRIS: I lived with my aunt and uncle where my mother was 
1 iving . 

STONEFIELD: And where was that? 

HARRIS: That was out near the UCLA [actually USC] 
campus. Actually the house was one that had been built 
quite early when my uncle's father and mother and some of 
the children came from Mississippi to California. His name 


was Harper, and he took up a quarter section, a hundred and 
sixty acres of land, as a homestead from the government and 
which extended from Adams to Jefferson, and from Hoover to 
Vermont . 

STONEFIELD: That's a nice piece of property. 
HARRIS: Twenty-ninth Street, which was the street the 
house backed on, was called Harper Avenue at that time 
[and] until much later, and the house I lived in was the 
house that was built then. The millwork came by boat 
around the Horn from New England. And then it was 
remodeled in the eighties, the 1880s, and faced a different 
way then, and was changed some. Well, anyway, I used to 
walk over Sunday afternoons to Exposition Park — it was only 
a few blocks away you see — and I'd go through the museum 
there to see what was new. There were some permanent 
exhibitions too. One that became almost permanent — at 
least it lasted long enough, and I don't know when it 
finally was ended — had a very powerful influence on me, and 
this was a Chinese sculpture and painting collection. It 
was the General Munthe collection. General Munthe had been 
a Swedish governor of some kind in China, and apparently he 
had just picked what he wanted. It was an enormous 
collection, and there were, well, half-a-dozen extremely 
fine paintings. There was one that I will never forget. 
And then it had a great deal of sculpture, stone 


sculpture. It cost so much to move it that it was left 

there for years. It was put up on the top floor of the new 

wing of the museum, and I used to go up there with a pad 

and pencil simply to draw them, simply just study them 

through drawing them. 

STONEFIELD: I have a question. You said that you lived 

near UCLA? Was this — ? 



HARRIS: When I spoke of something near UCLA I was speaking 

of the house in photographs that we saw up on the balcony, 

which was the Ralph Johnson House. 


HARRIS: Which is, I can't remember what the name of the 

boulevard is that goes along the north, I guess it goes 

along the north side of the campus. It's north-- 

STONEFIELD: Sunset. Is it Sunset? 

HARRIS: Maybe it is. Off it runs Sycamore Canyon-- I 

can't remember whether it's called Sycamore Drive or 

Sycamore Boulevard. It goes over into the valley. And 

this house — 

STONEFIELD: Beverly Glen maybe? 

HARRIS: That is another ravine with a road leading over 

into the valley. It's not Beverly Glen that I mean. 


STOMEFIELD: You lived with your aunt and uncle and your 



STONEFIELD: And you were going to Otis Institute. 


STONEFIELD: And discovered Hollyhock House. I wonder if 

you could kind of tell me what it seemed like to you when 

you first saw it, I mean how it affected you. 

HARRIS: I have said this and I've written it so much that 

it begins to sound rather corny I'm afraid. Well, I took 

this Saturday to see the building, and I entered on the 

road that wound up from Vermont Avenue near Sunset. And as 

I came up I suddenly came on, I don't know whether it was 

called cottage A or cottage B. There were two guest 

cottages. And this really stopped me. I had never seen 

anything like it. It looked so very Japanese to me, and 

yet it was a flat roof building, plaster with cast concrete 

ornament. And yet the whole shape, the whole feeling of 

the building anyway, was very, very Japanese. Then I went 

on up and to the top of the hill, and there I could see 

bits of the main building through the hedge. I would stop, 

and look and go on, stop and look and go on. I was afraid 

to go through. 

STONEFIELD: It was open to the public at that point? 


HARRIS: Oh, no, it wasn't. No. Hadn't been given. Miss 
Barnsdall still owned it. She didn't live in it very much, 
but it was still her private property and it was not opened 
to the public at all. You see it wasn't finished until 
about 1922. 

STONEFIELD: This was 1924? 

HARRIS: And this was 1925. Well, here was a long, low 
building that I could only see bits of at a time, and I had 
to put the bits together. It was like a long animal for 
that matter. You get part here and part here, but you know 
it's the same animal. I finally came to a hole in a hedge 
where I could actually step through and see it. And I saw 
it under the most favorable circumstances. It was in the 
late afternoon, and the sun was getting low, and the 
walls — which were sort of a golden tan — were very gold in 
the light of the setting sun. And the building was very 
horizontal and had wings that came toward you and away from 
you, this way and that way, and the movement of these wings 
was paralleled with the movement of bands of repeated 
ornament. The horizontal bands were just above a vertical 
break in the wall. It would be just above the window line, 
there was a ledge, and above the ledge the wall sloped 
slightly inward. And on this ledge was the hollyhock 
ornament. I didn't know what it was. It wasn't important 
that it resemble anything in particular. 


STONEFIELD: It actually doesn't look much like a 
hollyhock . 

HARRIS: Well, you have the vertical repetition of 
blossoms. But I'm glad it doesn't look any more like a 
flower than it does. Well, this was the most rhythmic 
thing that I had ever seen. This was sculpture, but it was 
sculpture on a completely different scale, and I simply 
couldn't stand still. I just had to move. As the building 
moved, I moved. That was all. I had to follow its 
development. And the smooth walls of the building with the 
intricate cast ornament that here appears like locks of 
hair on a smooth brow. The ornament would follow around a 
wing, and then it would come back again on another wing. 
And then I suddenly saw the ornament on each side of the 
large opening in the wall of what turned out to be the 
living room. It opened the living room out to a 
rectangular pool. I could see this same pattern but now 
incised, not in relief but in-- What's the contrary of 
relief? And then I discovered it in the full round coming 
up out of the center of the building mass, from places you 
couldn't see from where I was, couldn't see what the 
ornament was part of, but the ornament was always in 
pairs. This building was something I had never been able 
to imagine before. And I was all alone you see. That was 
the wonderful thing about it. I had discovered the 
Sleeping Beauty. [laughter] 


AUGUST 22, 1979 

STONEFIELD: We left off last time with your description of 
Hollyhock House, and I was wondering if you could tell me 
what happened after that as far as your entrance into the 

HARRIS: VJell, this was a very surprising development 
because I had had no interest in architecture before, and I 
was still interested in sculpture. So it was perhaps a 
year before I decided to switch. However, I continued to 
discover all that I could about Mr. [Frank Lloyd] Wright, 
and in the meantime I met [Rudolf M.] Schindler and Neutra, 
and it was out of discussions with Neutra in particular 
that I finally decided to switch. 
STONEFIELD: How did you meet them? 

HARRIS: I discovered a building under construction that 
was unlike any building that I had seen anywhere. It 
resembled somewhat photographs in European work that I had 
seen, and the general feeling of it was more that of Eric 
Mendelsohn's work than any other that I could recall. It 
was a rather express ionistic building, and I discovered 
that the architect was R. M. Schindler. I'd never heard of 
Schindler. I looked in the yellow pages of the book and 
found his address and without calling went to see him. And 
he took me in and I told him why I was there. And he took 


me into the living room, which adjoined the drafting room, 
and then brought in a stack of photographs and some 
drawings and put them on the table and suggested that I 
just look at them, which I proceeded to do. But I wasn't 
looking always at the picture. I was looking at the room 
that I was in. It had a cement slab floor. The walls were 
partly slabs of cement, uncolored like the floor but with a 
little bit of texture from the casting still on them. They 
were in panels about four feet wide, and between each pair 
of panels was a strip of glass about two or three inches 
wide. And outside light fell on the floor through these. 
Outside the glass there was ivy growing up it in many 
places. Walls on opposite sides of the building were tied 
together overhead at intervals by doubled beams of 
redwood. The slabs formed the outside walls, not the 
partition walls. Above the level of the tie beams there 
were small windows about sixteen inches high by four feet 
wide that let light in high up. Opposite a slab wall would 
usually be a wall into a court. There were several courts 
in the building. This opposite wall was made up, usually, 
of sliding panels filled with cheesecloth or some very 
inexpensive, but translucent material. The whole thing was 
a very inexpensive building done with many temporary 
materials, some of which, like the cloth, was replaced 
later by glass. Outside — because I looked through the 


glass into the garden — there was simply Bermuda grass and 
hedges of castor bean plants and bamboo. Everything was 
extremely common, and I was amazed at the total effect of 
it and decided that it must be magic. The design was done 
with the most common materials, and the result was so very 
uncommon. And as I was sitting there, looking alternately 
outside the room and at the pictures, someone came through 
the room. It was Mrs. [Dione] Neutra. I didn't know who 
she was, and, as I remarked in a letter that I wrote to 
Pauline Schindler only about five years ago, she was 
barelegged, wearing sandals, and had some loose kind of 
tunic on, probably made of cheesecloth or unbleached 
muslin, or something of the sort. Her hair was drawn back 
in what became practically a badge as far as she was 
concerned, with ribbon across her forehead. She simply 
smiled at me and passed on. As I told Pauline Schindler, 
she really didn't interrupt my thoughts because she seemed 
so in character with the building, and all I could think of 
was maybe I was on Mount Olympus. It was a very simple 
Greek thing and completely divorced in my perceptions of 
anything belonging to the year 1927. And then shortly 
after that Mr. [Richard J.] Neutra came in. He came 
directly to me and sat down beside me and looked at the 
pictures with me and talked about them. 


The result was that a little later when there was a 
series of lectures by him at the new Academy of iModern 
Art-- It had two branches, one in the old Chouinard art 
school out on Eighth Street near Westlake Park and the 
other in the new Fine Arts Building down on Seventh near 
Flower Street. I'm trying to remember the name of the man 
who founded them — Ferenz, F. K. Ferenz. I received an 
announcement of these lectures and of course I went. I 
enjoyed very much the lectures because here was an 
introduction to ideas underlying modern architecture as 
IJeutra understood it, and relating them not only to new 
technological processes of building production but also to 
matters of civic planning and other things involved in 
technology. There I met Greg Ain, who was also there 
listening. And a little bit later, when the series was 
over, Greg Ain and I, and two or three others who were at 
the series of lectures, none of them as interested as we 
two, undertook to have a little class at the Academy of 
Modern Art. We began by each designing an individual 

STONEFIELD: Who was the teacher in this? 
HARRIS: Neutra. And we each chose a project. I think 
Neutra may have made some suggestions. I had been 
following the progress of the design of the Lovell House-- 
I have made one mistake in my chronology here. Between the 


time of these lectures and the beginning of this class, I 
had worked for a very short time in TJeutra's office. I had 
decided that I wanted to switch to architecture, and I had, 
as I think I mentioned last time. I had a transcript of my 
record sent up at Berkeley and had planned to enter in the 

STONEFIELD: Is this before you met "Jeutra and Schindler, 
or as a result? 

HARRIS: No, no. As a result of having — I beg your 
pardon. It's barely possible. It was after I had 
discovered Wright, it was some time after that. It was 
along about this time I guess that I made that decision. 
STONEFIELD: To go to Berkeley. 

HARRIS: Anyway, it was at about this time that I planned 
to transfer to Berkeley and told Neutra that. He suggested 
that I would learn more working for him and taking some 
technical courses at night. I was persuaded that he was 
the person who would teach me most that I decided to do 
that and canceled my plans to enter Berkeley in the fall. 
I went to work then for Neutra — but for five days only — on 
the Lovell House. They were the last five days that the 
Lovell House was in the working drawings' production, and 
there was no work after that was done. 
STONEFIELD: In the office, no work in the office at all? 


HARRIS: No, not at all. And then this class, that had 
grown out of the series of lectures, started. I think 
there were six of us in it. I have a photograph of us all 
out together a little bit later looking at the foundation 
work of the Lovell House. As I said, we chose individual 
projects. And because I had been working on the Lovell 
House, I was particularly interested in house construction, 
and I was particularly interested in the methods that had 
been used there. So I proposed to design a building that 
would be a frame structure. It was two stories in 
height. The frame, however, was reinforced concrete, not 
steel. And it shows a very strong influence both of the 
Lovell House and perhaps to some extent of the Garden 
Apartments, the apartment building that I had first 
discovered and had thought was Schindler's. It was by 
Schindler and Neutra, and really it was more Neutra than it 
was Schindler, as I would have realized if I had known 
about Neutra and that he had worked with Mendelsohn 
earl ier . 

STONEFIELD: I have a question. What was it about him that 
drew you more to him than to Schindler? Because you were 
obviously affected by Schindler's house. 
HARRIS: Well, it was more the fact that Neutra was 
interested in me. He was interested in having some 
disciples, and he devoted himself to me. Schindler was 


very friendly, but I wasn't invited in to participate in 
anything. I had listened to these lectures of Neutra. I 
was very much struck by the influence of technology on 
design in a suggestive way as well as technology as a .-neans 
of production. I naturally followed what was most 
immediate that was also appealing to me. So this was the 
way it started. And because my work off and on continued 
on Neutra projects, projects that were only projects to him 
too, not actual building commissions. My work with Neutra, 
my interest in his work and his ideas, then dominated my 
thinking. I continued to look at Schindler's work. I was 
extremely interested in it. But, not being a participant 
in it, it didn't go beyond that. 

STONEFIELD: I interrupted you; you go on with your 
discussion of your project. 

HARRIS: Oh, well, I remember Greg worked on a design for a 
penitentiary. I don't know whether Neutra suggested it or 
not. I know Neutra did talk about pref abrication as the 
only means of the future for the production of buildings, 
that pref abrication wasn't just for housing, but even for 
public buildings, jails, courthouses, all sorts of 
things. And so Greg took on that. I've forgotten what 
some of the others took. None of them carried them very 
far, however, and they dropped out at the end of this 

I think it was immediately after this, soon afterward 
anyway, that Neutra decided that it would be interesting to 
use the problems then being used by the modern European — 
German principally, [as well as] Austrian and French-- 
architects who were then producing projects in connection 
with the International Congresses for Modern Architecture 
[Congr$s Internat ionaux d ' Architecture Moderne (CIAM)]. 
Europeans were accustomed to working on projects because 
they seldom had any actual buildings. They had no clients, 
with very few exceptions, and so they worked on projects 
that were decided on at these congresses. The earlier 
congresses had to do with housing. This was an important 
thing, particularly in Germany after World War I when there 
was a great need for housing-- And I take back that remark 
that their work was almost entirely projects. It was 
not. Low-cost housing was one thing that they did have, 
not as much perhaps as they would like. These projects, 
then, were exhibited at the congresses. They were 
discussed, and I guess took the place of the manifestoes 
that had been the important things before then. So at 
Neutra's suggestion, [I was] made secretary of the American 
group which was then formed. [It] included Neutra, Greg 
Ain and me, plus two or three others in the East who were 
not very directly involved in this at this time. Anyway, I 
wrote to Sigfried Giedion in Zurich and expressed our 


interest in becoming affiliated with it and sent in our 
dues and received the programs. And so we proceeded then 
to design group housing. It turned out to be largely row 
housing and looked very strange in America and in Southern 
California, the center of the single-family house. But 
because it was a real problem there, it was an interesting 
one to work on. The projects were exhibited each year at a 
meeting of the congresses. 

And in order to compare our work with theirs and to 
judge them from the standpoint of efficiency, particularly 
in space, Neutra suggested that I develop a chart, and he 
named it — it was a German name — the minimum existence 
correlation chart. Now minimal existence rubbed me a 
little bit the wrong way, but I was looking at this purely 
as a project. Anyway, with this chart one could quickly 
take any one of several factors that were involved — the 
number in the family, the income, the number of rooms, the 
total area, the cost per square foot, the cost per cubic 
foot. I don't know whether any other things or not. I 
think there were five factors. Anyway, by beginning with 
any one of these, one could quickly determine what, 
according to minimal existence standards, would be the 
minimum for each of the others. 

And then, after — I think we worked two years on 
housing— and then the next congress was on city planning. 


And each group was asked to take its own city and redesign 
it according to the latest standards and theories of city 
planning. So we took Los Angeles, and we chose what seemed 
so far in the distance I hardly thought I would ever live 
to see it, the year 1950. This was to be Los Angeles in 
1950 as we would design it, redesign it, based on its 
present pattern. And of course the most remarkable thing 
about it was the fact that it had grown up in the 
automobile age. Detroit was the only other city that even 
approached it. Neutra had some ideas about the automobile 
which proved to be erroneous, such as, if we devoted the 
entire ground surface of the city, the downtown anyway, to 
transportation, to cars — 


AUGUST 22, 1979 

STONEFIELD: Where were we? 

HARRIS: Oh yes, yes. We found that devoting the entire 
surface of the downtown area to either streets of parking 
for cars, we couldn't begin to accommodate all the cars 
that would need to be there, despite the fact that our 
buildings were widely spaced and only twelve stories high, 
which was the building code limitation there at that 
time. They were thin slab buildings, so every office 
really had an outside face. There were second-story 
sidewalks, and the block-long buildings were joined 
together at intervals by cross-walks and cross streets. 
Even so, one couldn't begin to take care of all cars, even 
with this limited downtown population. 

STONEFIELD: There was no thought of alternative forms of 

HARRIS: Oh yes, we had plenty of alternatives. 
STONEFIELD: Oh, you did. 

HARRIS: We were making this, whether we knew it or not, as 
a part of Neutra's ideal city. Rush City Reformed. That 
name, "Rush City," always bothered me too, just as "minimal 
existence" had. But, anyway, that was the name for it, and 
we proceeded to develop this in drawings. It was the 
throughways and the overpasses as they came through the 
town that were my particular part in this design. 


Well, at the end of this time there was a congress, 
and Neutra decided to attend it. The Lovell House had been 
completed. He had received his fee. He had some money. 
He had made photographs of the Lovell House, and so with 
them under his arm he proceeded to Europe by way of Japan, 
where he gave some talks and where a folio of his work was 
to be published. One thing that I have neglected to say 
is-- Well, let me finish this too. Because Los Angeles is 
so big--what was it? twenty-eight miles I think from the 
city hall to San Pedro--it was impossible to make our plan 
at the same scale as those of the other members. We had to 
use a smaller scale. Even so, it was the biggest of all of 
those that were exhibited. 

One thing I forgot to say-- I got mixed up in thinking 
that we went directly to the CIAM projects from those 
individual projects. In between there was the design of an 
airport. This was for a national competition. The Lehigh 
Portland Cement Airport Competition was its name. Lehigh 
Portland Cement Company was the sponsor of it. We decided 
to enter, and, as I have remarked elsewhere, this was 
really my big learning experience with Neutra. We were 
designing something that no one knew anything about 
really. They knew something about planes, the length of 
runways necessary for existing planes, and that was about 
all. We read everything that had been published on the 


subject, and I spent some time out at Mines Field, which 

was the young airport, it had one runway. 

STONEFIELD: Where is that? 

HARRIS: Well, it was down the coast toward San Pedro but 

not so very far. It's the main airport now, it's the Los 

Angeles airport. 

STONEFIELD: Oh, really. It was just, I see, it was just 

called that. 

HARRIS: It was abandoned at one time, and they moved to 

Glendale, and then from Glendale to Burbank, and then they 

moved back to Mines Field much later. 

Well, anyway, at that time there was so little that 
was known. One thing that Neutra did know that no one else 
in the competition knew was that airports are part of a 
much larger design, the design of a region and of a city. 
It's the connection point between various forms of 
transportation. It's not simply between two different legs 
in a journey by air where you merely change planes. It's 
how you get into the city, and from the city out to the 
airport, and how you do it in a short length of time. 

And so Neutra proceeded to use certain ideas that he 
had developed earlier in connection with other Rush City 
Reformed designs, particularly railroad connections to a 
city transportation pattern. Here we added the airline 
connections, and Neutra insisted upon our calling it — not 


an air terminal, which was how the competition described 
it--but an air transfer, a place where one kind of 
transportation ends and another takes over. And this was 
the important feature of our design. We worked on it with 
great enthusiasm, connecting our Rush City design, which 
was very much influenced by the design of modern Vienna, 
where the former city wall became the place for a 
peripheral boulevard and where there were radiating 
boulevards and other transportation systems, surface and 
subway. So our Rush City design, which we developed still 
further for surface-rail, subsurface-rail, private 
automobile, and motor bus — All of these then had to 
connect with the airport lines, and we had to make it as 
rapid a connection as possible. The assumption was that 
people who travel by air are in a hurry and that we 
shouldn't lose time either getting there or in making 
connections between different segments of the 
transportation system. 

So we brought the subway out of the ground as it came 
to the airport. We carried it up an incline and onto a 
bridge. It reminded me of a pier stretching out into the 
ocean. I was familiar with the Santa Monica and other 
piers. Our pier stretched out into the airfield. Neutra 
had a horror of the vast reception rooms in which persons 
waited for their trains to be called. This was at just the 


time that Union Station was being planned in the old 
Chinatown in Los Angeles. It hadn't yet been built, but 
Chinatown was being gradually eroded to make way for it, 
plans were out. This kind of station was something that we 
wanted to avoid. We wanted to bring each form of 
transportation as face to face with the air form as we 

We didn't know how big to make it. Our assumption 
was, at the time, the planes would get bigger but they 
wouldn't get huge. A plane wouldn't attempt to carry in a 
single plane all that a single train would carry on a large 
transcontinental railroad. Passengers in a hurry would 
want to avoid long waits between flights. We would have 
many flights and they'd be with the smaller planes. So we 
decided, rather arbitrarily, that we would allow for four 
simultaneous landings and take-offs. We had a length of 
runway that was recommended at that time, and we just 
assumed that it would take fifteen minutes for a landing or 
a takeoff. So that meant four landings or takeoffs an 
hour, fifteen minutes for each one, and with four runways 
that would be sixteen in an hour. 

So then we proceeded to determine, how large each 
waiting room for a flight would be-- And it would be as 
near to the plane as possible, actually it would be above 
it. The planes would come in underneath this elevated 


platform and passengers could go directly down to them. 
One wouldn't suffer from the difficulty of understanding 
the voice over the loudspeaker telling where and when the 
plane was leaving. Of course, I can remember very well the 
old Santa Fe station in Los Angeles, where it wasn't a 
loudspeaker but a large man with an enormous voice. I was 
very small. I can remember holding onto my father's hand 
there as this man would boom out the departures and track 
numbers. I can remember his picking me up in his arms 
once. He had a big voice, he was a big man, and all this 
impressed me very much. However, right now we were 
interested in making the connections as easy and as near at 
hand as possible, and, having determined the size of the 
room for each plane bay and the number of seats in it, we 
then began to determine such things as the number of seats 
in the dining room, even the number of sandwiches in a 
sandwich bar, and of course the number of fixtures in the 
toilet rooms. All of these things, you see, were based on 
the plane size. With one of these details decided on in 
the beginning, you go ahead and each decision determines 
the next decision and the next and the next. 
STONEFIELD: Would you say that his approach to 
architecture was not that of a technician, but rather that 
of almost a sociologist or a philosopher? 


HARRIS: It was that of a designer, bat of a designer of 
total design. I mean it wasn't just a particular thing. I 
mean he saw architecture as total design. And the 
important thing in my experience was seeing where the 
suggestion, as well as the need, for the inclusion of 
things comes from and how one thing depends on another, how 
it's all interrelated. This was what I learned from Meutra 
and I learned it on this project, and it happened just at 
the right time for me. So this is what I am most grateful 
to Neutra for. 

STONEFIELD: Do you feel that others of this period had the 
same approach? Did Schindler have this same approach, or 

HARRIS: It wasn't as related to the region and the city 
and total technology. It was related in a smaller way, and 
it was something that one used in a smaller way. It was 
something that I appreciated in Wright and in Schindler and 
in others. It was the totality of it and the fact that 
there was more in a design than was commonly thought of. 

So this really proceeded the CIAM projects. And, at 
the end of the city planning one, Neutra went to Europe. 
He was gone then for almost a year, and I worked on some 
projects of my own. I got a client, first for a little 
remodeling job, then for a small apartment building which 
wasn't built. It looked too much like the Garden 


Apartments I'm sure. Then on a building for a sculptor 

friend that went clear through the working drawings. 

Neutra had returned by that time. 

STONEFIELD: What did you do while he was gone? Were you 

still — ? 

HARRIS: I worked largely on projects. I had some real 

things, only one was built, the others were projects only. 

STONEFIELD: Your own projects, rather than his? 

HARRIS: Yes, yes. Greg Ain and I worked together a great 

deal of the time. We worked on projects, not the same 

project, each of us had his own. And we kept our interest 

up very much that way. 

STONEFIELD: Were you working in the Schindler studio and 

house at that point? 

HARRIS: No, no. I only worked there the five days that I 

was working on Neutra 's Lovell House. We worked at the 

Academy of Modern Art on, I believe, the airport 

competition as well as the CIAM projects. It was a very 

informal class. We paid no tuition and we simply used the 

facilities there, mostly for Neutra's criticisms. 

STONEFIELD: I wonder if you could tell me something about 

what these people were like, what Mr. Schindler was like, 

and what Gregory Ain was like. How did they affect you? 

How did you work with them? 


HARRIS: Well, Mr. Schindler appeared to be a very 
easygoing person, a very genial person, one who had fresh 
ideas and ones that were expressed in a graphic form that 
was particularly appealing to me. 

STONEFIELD: Did he speak a lot about his ideas? Did he 
talk with you? 

HARRIS: We had very little conversation. I remember once 
meeting him out on Olive Hill when he was doing some 
remodeling of the larger of the two houses, the guest 
houses, and being a little shocked at the way he made 
changes in things. Things that he had designed and that 
Wright had designed, although he designed more of the 
detail of all of the Olive Hill houses than I realized at 
the time. The larger aspects of it were very much Wright, 
but the smaller ones, many of the details, I've since 
discovered were very much Schindler. 

And Schindler did them in the most sympathetic and the 
most imaginative way. It was his ability to drop one idea 
and pick up another fresh one and develop it in a way that 
one would think that he had been thinking about if for 
years and years and this was not his first try. This was 
very surprising to me. And his use of unconventional 
materials, the cheapest of materials, and extracting design 
possibilities from them. All of this had a very strong 
influence on me at the time. All of this, of course, 
without working with him, seeing him only occasionally. 


I can remember, while Neutra was away, Greg Ain and I 
together happened to visit the Elliott House, then under 
construction. And I can remember Schindler's description 
of things and why he was doing certain things. His 
explanation was very interesting, but the building wasn't 
as interesting to me because this was probably about the 
first of his buildings in which structure no longer became 
the dominating factor as it had in the earlier buildings. 
In his own house and studio, the walls were cement slabs 
cast on the floor, upended into place, and tied together 
overhead. This was the dominating factor. 

The next building that I became acquainted with, which 
was done hardly more than a year later, was the court 
[Pueblo Ribera] , the bungalow court, as we called all such 
things at that time, down in La Jolla, this was done with 
movable forms, using two two-by-s ixteens [to] form the 
space in which concrete would be poured. So pouring 
sixteen inches at a time and then raising the boards — which 
were tied together horizontally and vertically by some 
guides — became a feature of the design. A building in 
which not only was [there a horizontal] unit — a four-foot 
unit had been used in the design studio, it was used again 
here — but here there was also a vertical unit, a sixteen- 
inch unit, so that vertical divisions, openings and other 
major things were multiples of sixteen inches, just as the 


horizontal ones were multiples of forty-eight inches. It 
was the directness with which results were achieved and the 
process, the simplest of processes, suggested the form, a 
form which visually became very exciting as well as 
economically and technically advantageous, that 
distinguished the design. 

STONEFIELD: Were you attracted by the way he worked 
spontaneously on the site with materials? He did a lot of 
direct supervision of his own work, didn't he? 
HARRIS: Yes, yes. He had direct and continuous control 
over the work on the site, an unusual opportunity because 
the work was being done usually without a general 
contractor, so he could modify to some extent the design. 
This was a great advantage. I don't know that it took this 
for me to realize that a building is not really designed 
until construction is completed. The difficulty, of 
course, in ordinary construction is making a change. It 
means a change, usually, in cost, and this means 
reconsideration on the part of the client and all sorts of 
difficulties. One tries very much to avoid them because 
changes always increase cost. Even if you take something 
out, it adds to the cost. So Schindler found this the most 
advantageous way for him to work. Schindler had not had 
the kind of work that tJeutra was eager to get, large-scale 
work, work as far as possible done in the factory and very 
much standardized. 


STONEFIELD: Did he want that kind of work? Schindler? Do 
you think he would have wanted to do that kind of work? 
HARRIS: Well, he didn't get it anyway, and he gave up 
trying very early. His clients were not persons with a 
great deal of money. They belonged to a largely bohemian 
group of which he became a part. And everything was done 
on a very personal relationship between him and his 
client. So there was a unity there in the design process, 
with the owner and the client being very closely 
associated, since Schindler then became in effect the 
contractor, although the owner was technically the 
contractor and Schindler was simply supervising the work 
for the owner for an additional fee. 

STONEFIELD: So Neutra's way of working was entirely 
different actually? 

HARRIS: It was entirely different. Neutra was interested 
in a different thing. They were together at the beginning, 
as comes out rather clearly now in Esther McCoy's book. 
They were students at one time in the same school, and they 
had a shared admiration for Adolph Loos and for others, 
including Wright, and for America as well but for different 
reasons. Schindler [was interested] partly on account of 
building construction here, which he had heard about 
through Loos, and partly on account of Wright, with whom he 
had been acquainted through the Wasmuth publication. 


Neutra [was] interested for the same reasons, but more for 
the methods of production in America than was Schindler. 
There was quite a lot of time between when Schindler came 
to the United States and Neutra's arrival here. Schindler 
arrived in 1914, early I guess in 1914, it was before the 
declaration of war in Europe, and Meutra [not] until — what 
was it? — 1923, I guess it was, I don't think it was '24. 
So a great deal had happened. [Tape recorder malfunction 
disrupts conversation] Where was I? 

STONEFIELD: You were telling me about Neutra coming to 
this country. 

HARRIS: Yes. And how he and Schindler differed and how 
Meutra was interested particularly in the technology 
here. Well, I can go on with that. Neutra, after spending 
a very short time in New York, went on to Chicago where he 
met Wright and was invited to Taliesin. He was there for 
four or five months I believe. In Chicago he worked in the 
office of Holabird and Roche, which was one of the largest 
offices in the United States at that time. He worked on 
the designs for the new Statler Hotel. This was a building 
that exhibited all of the newest and most technical 
developments in building at that time and had a very strong 
influence on Neutra. The result was that Neutra, from 
that, acquired material to write a book, which he had 
decided upon perhaps even before he came here, which he 


called Wie Baut Amerika [How America Builds]. Anyway, when 
Neutra finally came on to Los Angeles he simply moved in 
with Schindler. (Mrs. Neutra was here by this time. She 
had come ahead, quite a long time ahead.) And he worked on 
some of Schindler's work. He designed the landscape, the 
garden for — 

3T0NEFIELD: Hollyhock House? 

HARRIS: Not Hollyhock, I think it was the house for 
Lovell, not the beach house, I believe, but a house in 
Fallbrook, which I have never seen. I don't know why I 
haven't, because I have lived in Fallbrook and have built 
two things there, one for myself and one for a client, and 
didn't realize that there was this building there. Of 
course it may have been so remodeled by this time that I 
wouldn't have recognized it if I had seen it. Anyway, then 
there was the announcement of an international competition 
for a design for the League of Nations building and Neutra 
persuaded Schindler to enter it with him. This was a 
project that took all of their energies for a great deal of 
time, and it's hard to know how much of the design was 
Neutra and how much was Schindler. 

STONEFIELD: When they worked together, how did they 
work? How did they divide up the responsibilities? 
HARRIS: Well, there was practically no work I believe on — 


STONEFIELD: Well, when they did projects like that how 
would they have proceeded? 

HARRIS: I don't know. And apparently Pauline Schindler 
was only aware of the fact that they were up all hours of 
the night, working on this for months until it was 
finished. The drawings that I have seen I think were made 
by Neutra because they have the look of his drawings, his 
renderings. And — 

STONEFIELD: Do you think that they were, I mean how 
compatible were they would you say? 

HARRIS: Well, probably about as compatible as two persons 
each with strong ideas of what he wants; as compatible as 
such could be. It wasn't something that could last. 
Neutra simply used the drafting room there as his office. 
He used it all during the development of the Lovell 
drawings, which one can't help but consider a little 
heartless, since he had stolen Lovell away from Schindler. 
Anyway, their cordiality diminished, Schindler's did, 
as this continued. So when Neutra left to go on his 
invited lecture tour of Europe in the spring of 1930 
(although Dione stayed on until July), Schindler I guess 
decided that he wanted to keep the place for himself and 
that he wouldn't invite Neutra back. I don't know whether 
Neutra was aware of it at that time or not. Anyway, when 
Neutra did return in 1932, it was probably the spring of 


1932, he didn't even attempt to move in there. The first 
day he was back I drove his car, which he had forgotten how 
to drive, it had been in storage the whole time he was 
away. Dione didn't return until some time later. [I] took 
him house hunting, found a place for him up near Elysian 
Park. Anyway, this ended not only their collaboration on 
projects, but their association in the same drafting room. 
STONEFIELD: Esther McCoy implied in her book, the recent 
book, that Neutra had not treated Schindler very well. 
HARRIS: I think that's entirely true. I'm quite aware of 
it as I consider the past that I am aware of. And all I 
can do is say that the intensity of Neutra 's enthusiasm for 
certain things made it easy for him, or possible for him, 
to override some feelings of nicety, probably. So that it 
was a case of the ends justifying the means. 
STONEFIELD: I wonder at this point, before we get into 
discussing your own projects and your own work, if you 
could tell me about other influences on your work and your 
architectural philosophy? Anything that preceded your 
meeting with Schindler and Neutra. 

HARRIS: Well, certainly whatever character ray own work has 
is very much affected by what I saw and experienced in the 
twenty years before I met Neutra and Schindler and 
Wright. I'm probably a little bit more aware of what these 
influences were as I look at my own work now and as I look 


back on Neutra's and Schindler's and even Wright's work and 
pick out what features of their work affected me. However, 
I am most aware of the fact that I grew up in California, 
particularly Southern California, and that it is very much 
a part of me. And I'm aware too, particularly now that 
I've been away for some time and California has changed a 
great deal, that the California I'm talking about is a 
place and is also a time. It was a California then, in the 
first quarter of the century in particular, that was 
remarkable for its remoteness from the rest of the 
country. It was the whole of the country, almost, in my 
mind as I thought of it then. It is also remarkable for 
its physical characteristics, for nature as it exists 
there. And this nature was marked by a great deal of 
variety. There one finds the highest peak in the United 
States, Mount Whitney, and the lowest valley in the United 
States, Death Valley. The longest coast line probably of 
any state and the biggest ocean just outside it. Marvelous 
deserts, the Mohave in particular, and the spectacular 
valleys, too, like Yosemite. Giant trees, the sequoia. 
Beautiful lakes. Lake Tahoe. And, particularly at that 
time, the vast carpets of wild flowers that covered valleys 
and foothills as far as one could see. The orange groves 
that covered the valleys and the foothills, looking like a 
chenille bedspread draped over these forms. The tall 


palms — and I can remember those particularly — usually in 
rows or in pairs, with their round tops elevated on long 
sticks above the round tops of the orange trees below, at 
that time usually marking the entrances of a driveway to 
the house to which the orange grove belonged, at other 
times in long lines. They were used as street trees a 
great deal then, too. The tall, plume-like eucalyptus, the 
citriodora [eucalyptus maculata citriodora] . The 
bougainvillea, which was like a giant red scarf over the 
water tower that belonged with the — What was the house 
there in Pasadena right near intersection of Orange Grove 
and Colorado Street? 
STONEFIELD: Not Wrigley? 

HARRIS: No, the Wrigley is further south. This is near 
the corner. He was a great benefactor of Yale University 
and [the one] some Yale buildings [are] named after. He 
was arrested, or he was cited, not arrested, cited by the 
police in Pasadena at one time for driving his horse and 
carriage at too rapid a pace. Well, you wouldn't remember 
it. It was later turned into, I think to an art center, 
and it was there that the industrial design school that was 
a joint project of Caltech and Occidental College at one 
time — Anyway, I can remember the bougainvillea that used 
to spread over its tank house. Bougainvillea spread over 
hillsides too. These are all things that are very strong 


in my mind. The contrasts and differences that I haven't 
seen in other places. The variety in nature is something 
that is very much a part of me and something that I like to 
take into account as far as possible in any building that I 
do. So that certainly is an influence of a California that 
I grew up in. 

STONEFIELD: Did you feel growing up in California was 
different from the standpoint that man was a relative 
newcomer to the area? 

HARRIS: Well, I think so. Because we thought of nature as 
there first, and, although there was great development 
there, the development for the most part hadn't been at the 
expense of the environment. We were building and doing 
purely man-made and artificial things within the natural 
setting, but it didn't seem to be destroying the setting as 
a whole in any way. It was a gentle nature to begin with 
that one could expose himself to, didn't have to protect 
himself from. And it wasn't a nature that had to be 
dominated. VJe didn't feel that we had to tame it. It was 
something that didn't require taming. It was simply 
something to accomodate oneself to and to develop in what 
he built as a means of making more complete and general 
living possible, but not something to be excluded in any 
important way. We thought of it then, or a little bit 
later, as a place and a climate very similar to the 


Mediterranean, but, as I discovered later, it's really more 
South Seas than Mediterranean. 


AUGUST 22, 1979 

HARRIS: Well, this nature was not only various, in great 
variety, but it could be very gentle and it could be very 
abundant . 

STONEFIELD: The buildings didn't need to be in any way 
protecting man from a hostile environment. 
HARRIS: No. They didn't exclude so much. You provide 
some shelter from sun and some from rain, but you didn't 
close it all out. It was still out there, close by. 
Sometimes nature could be brought in and the two 
interlocked, but one didn't feel that he was shut off from 
it. He didn't feel that it was something to be excluded, 
something that he needed to protect himself from. And the 
fact that it was so abundant made him eager to share in it. 

This was something I think that the settlers early 
discovered, this variety and the opportunity for what could 
be done--and, if you had some water--for what more you 
could do. This allowed these new settlers to consider how 
their new life there could be a more abundant life. With 
such nature and such opportunity they luxuriated in this 
abundance. Their minds, then, were more on the new things 
they could do as a consequence of all these new things they 
discovered, and not so much upon reproducing or holding on 
to the older things that they had been simply on the east 


coast of the United States or whether it had been in Europe 
or, in some cases, of course, even the Orient. These 
settlers were from many parts of the world. They were 
there because they wanted to be there, they weren't born 
there. With the exception of a few Chinese coolies who may 
have been shanghaied and brought there, the others were 
there because they wanted to be there. Many of them came 
there to escape something. Many of the Germans, in 
particular, and Central Europeans came there after the 1848 
revolution throughout Europe, and were there because they 
were democrats escaping from an antidemocratic homeland. 
And others were there, of course, on account of the 
economic opportunities there. Gold was discovered and that 
brought many. Most, however, were from other parts of the 
United States. Silver, however, brought others, it brought 
many from England. It brought people who were capable of 
more than simply panning gold, wielding a pick or doing 
something of that sort. These were business minds, largely 
because silver mining became a much more technical thing 
and it involved much planning. And although the silver 
wasn't in California, it was in Nevada, that wouldn't make 
any difference. In effect, Nevada was a suburb of San 
Francisco at that time. And so that [inaudible]. What was 
his name? Schliemann? Anyway, this is the man who was 
largely responsible for the excavations in — 


STONEFIELD: Schl iemann , Heinrich Schliemann, wasn't it? 
HARRIS: Schliemann in Crete. He came to California to 
hunt for his brother who had disappeared there and who, I 
guess, had come for gold or silver. He stayed to make a 
fortune in silver and then used his fortune for these other 
things. Then there were all sorts of other persons there 
who became philanthropists in various ways. [Leland] 
Stanford, the founder of Stanford University, of course 
made his money in railroads, I guess almost entirely. 
STONEFIELD: Did these people view this California that 
they came to in a romantic way or were they basically 
interested in things that functioned and were practical? 
I'm talking about buildings and — 

HARRIS: Well, I think they very quickly became rather 
idealistic when they discovered the kind of life that was 
possible there. And most of them then used the means, the 
wealth, that they acquired there to a very large extent to 
develop those things. [James] Lick with his observatory — 
Well, there are lots that I can't remember, but they stayed 
there too. They didn't take their money and go away, for 
the most part. They were struck by the kind of life that 
could be lived there. They saw it as a place in which the 
future could be realized here and now. It wasn't perhaps 
heaven on earth, but it approached that as compared to many 
other places. I realize I'm idealizing all of this too. 


but, anyway, it's that idealization that sticks in my mind, 
and, I suppose, affects what picture I have of building and 
development of all that goes with building. 
STONEFIELD: I'm thinking of the fact that the California 
bungalow, for example, was an attempt to provide a good 
kind of a life for ordinary people. You know, it was like 
a prototype for that. 

STONEFIELD: And the fact that Schindler's house, for 
example, had all of these health features to it. All the 
sleeping porches and the connections with the outdoors were 
an attempt to make life better for people. Was it in 
answer to what these people were seeking when they came to 

HARRIS: Yes. Now, the native Californians lived in a very 
simple way. They lived largely outdoors, usually around 
the court, [with] a sheltered space made by extending the 
roof of the building over a portion of the court. And they 
went into the real interior probably only at night and on 
other occasions. What building had been done of a more 
ambitious nature in the case of the missions, which pretty 
much followed the same thing, too, was done with more 
permanent materials than many of the California houses. 

This was the background, and was certainly the 
background of Mr. Bandini, who was the very early client of 


Greene and Greene, who came to them with a request for a 
California house. They asked him, "Well, what do you 
consider a California house to be?" And he described ]ust 
this thing. It was done with redwood boards, which was the 
simplest thing that they could find. It was not very 
large, but it was largely open to a court. It was enclosed 
partly by building, partly by garden wall. And it was 
probably in this building that they saw the particular 
character that a California building might have, because 
their Georgian work — and that was what their earlier work 
there had been — certainly hadn't found any point of design 
departure, really. They had made the eaves a little wider 
and a few things like that. But the Bandini House was a 
real eye-opener to what a truly simple house in California 
might be. Jean knew the son of Bandini. An interesting 
thing, too, is the fact that Charles Dana, the Two Years 
Before the Mast man, visited California, and he reported on 
California. And he spoke of the primitive character, the 
rather low-class character, judging from the tone of his 
remarks, of Calif ornians , and he used Mr. Bandini as an 
example of that particular low-class character, or at least 
the low estimation in which he held them. 

There was some tradition of wood building of the very 
simplest sort, and the board and batten building was 
that. I can remember when I designed the Chinese 


restaurant, I used something that was still called 
"California construction." It was then illegal according 
to the requirements of the building code at that time, as 
it was the vertical boards which actually carried the 
load. I saw quite a number of early houses that were built 
of wide vertical boards, their ends resting on the floor 
nailed into the side of a floor plate and carrying another 
plate at the top where the rafters began. A single two-by- 
four formed a girt around the building midway up the wall, 
usually right underneath the sill of the window. This 
single board wall carried all the roof load and was an 
extremely simple thing. No further material or space was 
necessary. At that time insulation for coolness was the 
only thing that they really thought much about, and we got 
that by shade and ventilation. So, I think this 
"California house" had a great deal to do with the 
beginning of the Greenes' interest. The California 
bungalow as it developed was influenced very much by this 
early Greene and Greene work, although most of those who 
designed them and built them and lived in them had no idea 
who Greene and Greene were or had ever heard their names. 
STONEFIELD: Had you ever heard their names by the time you 
got — ? 


STONEFIELD: You never had. Had you seen any of their 
buildings even? 

HARRIS: I think I had, but I hadn't inquired. And I 
didn't think of this as architecture, you see. This was 
the surprising thing. This was just natural building, that 
was all. And I liked it, I preferred it and disliked so 
much of the pretentious, largely Georgian, at least in its 
reminiscences, that we had there. 

STONEFIELD: What about other influences before you got to 
Neutra, were you aware of architecture as possibilities? 
Or weren't there any at that point? 

HARRIS: Well, these are the ones that I think of. There 
are other things that belong to that period, and have 
something to do with the sense of newness, of freshness, of 
abundance and of great possibilities, and also the liking 
of nature. John Muir had interested [Theodore] Roosevelt, 
had started the first interest in the conservation movement 
and got Roosevelt to — Maybe not directly, although 
Roosevelt and [John] Burroughs and others visited him out 
here — in the establishment of the first national forests. 
And then there was Luther Burbank, that we all knew very 
much about as schoolchildren because of his development of 
new species of plants of all kinds. The fact was that many 
people, an uncle of mine included, imported seeds from 
Egypt and the Mediterranean, which they planted. And 


arboretums were established, private arboretums. The fact 
that anything, almost, could grow in California if it had 
water made them very eager to try all of these things. So 
there was a sense that almost anything could be done, that 
progress was illimitable. And therefore there wasn't such 
complete adherence to the past in all of these things that 
there would have been for anyone building in a colonial 
part of the country, as the eastern part was and still is. 
3T0NEFIELD: Did you know at all of [Louis] Sullivan? 
HARRIS: What was that? 

STONEFIELD: Did you know anything about Sullivan at that 

HARRIS: I had never heard of Sullivan, although I'm sure I 
had seen something of his, because it looked familiar to me 
when I did see his work later. It was not until, as a 
student at Otis, [I] went into the office of the director 
on some matter or other, that Karl Howenstein shoved over a 
typewritten sheet for me to read. It was something he had 
written for a magazine, and the occasion for the writing 
was the death of Louis Sullivan. I read it and didn't 
forget it, and, less than a year afterward, [Sullivan's] 
The Autobiography of an Idea was published. Howenstein 
spoke in his piece about the influence of Sullivan. He had 
worked for a short time for Sullivan, but in Sullivan's 
much later years. He talked, I remember, in this piece for 


publication about the influence that Sullivan had on 
draftsmen in various offices. So that I had that 
knowledge, but I didn't see, even in photographs, for some 
time any Sullivan building, and I didn't see an actual 
Sullivan building until I went up to Minnesota to see the 
Owatonna bank in '57. But I did read The Autobiography of 
an Idea, in 1926 I guess. T was very much taken with it 
and became a great admirer of Sullivan. And then when I 
saw the first Wright building, I thought of Sullivan, 
because this is what I thought Sullivan would have done. 
STONEFIELD: Did you see other — ? I know that you saw the 
Wasmuth portfolios. 

STONEFIELD: And the Wendingen. 

HARRIS: Yes. Those were the only two books on Wright that 
I saw, the only two that I was aware of at that time. I 
did see work in some of the magazines. In the 
Architectural Record there was a series called "In the 
Nature of Materials," written by Wright. It was a 
development of something, a further development of 
something that he had written in 1908. An interesting 
thing is [what] I learned much, much later from Douglas 
Haskell, who died only a week or two ago and who was editor 
for many years of the Architectural Forum. He had been of 
the Record before that, and much earlier than that he had 


been the architectural editor, if they could have had one, 
of The Nation. He had been sent out by the Record — he was 
just a free-lance writer — to interview Wright for this 1928 
series called "In the Nature of Materials." One of the 
stories he told me that I remember so well was that he was 
walking around the garden there at Taliesin with Wright. 
There were some visitors coming, hopefully a client, later 
in the day. He remarked that Wright reached up and pulled 
some flowers off of a tree and took them out and scattered 
them over the water in the pool there, and then he turned 
to Haskell, smiled and said, "Rubbing Aladdin's lamp." 
STONEFIELD: What was the direct influence of Wright's work 
on you, I mean aside from propelling you into this 
interest? How did it affect the works that you produced? 
HARRIS: Well, first of all, I guess it was the sculpture 
of the buildings that struck me so forcibly at the very 
beginning. Because here was form that was new and fresh. 
It had no associations, there was nothing worn about it. 
It was fresh and it was something that T could feel myself 
into. I projected myself into these forms, and I couldn't 
help but move and stop and turn in rhythm with them. It 
was a rhythmic character produced by forms that were fresh 
and that spoke to me as forms that had nothing that would 
repel me or confuse me with other associations. I think 
that is the first thing. And it was the realization that 
architecture could be art. 


And then I guess plan as form was the next thing that 
I first discovered in Wright.. I saw that very clearly of 
course in the plans that went with the perspectives in the 
Wasrauth publication, and I saw the relation of plan to 
outward form in such a very, very clear way there. So I 
then felt myself into the form of the plan, the form of the 
interior, not simply into the form of the outward mass. 
Certainly Wright has been the most continuing and strongest 
influence on me as far as plan goes. Plan is form and is 
the very beginning and essence of all form it seems to me 
in a Wright building. Everything grows out of that. And, 
of course, it was the continuity of this, as I discovered, 
as I saw more of Hollyhock House, the continuity of a form 
idea carried throughout all parts of a building, into all 
the details, even into the furniture, movable as well as 
built-in. It was the product of one mind, one sensibility, 
that produced it. 

STONEFIELD: Did you ever meet him? 

HARRIS: Oh, yes, but not for many years, and I avoided 
meeting him for many years because he was such a god in my 
mind that I didn't want to take any chance on finding that 
he wasn't a god. So that [in spite of] my first meeting 
with a building of his and the continuing influence on all 
of my thinking after that, from 1925 until 1940, I hadn't 
met him, although I did attend some lectures of his. The 


first I remember was, it must have been 1929, because the 
drawing, a perspective drawing in color in the 
Architectural Record, his Saint Mark's in the Bowery, was 
published just at that time. That was very much in my mind 
when I went to this lecture, which was in the evening in 
the Philharmonic Auditorium with not a very big crowd. Mr. 
Wright gave the most persuasive talk. He wasn't arguing 
about anything, he was earnestly trying to say something 
very, very clearly. He talked very much about Taliesin, 
and this only added to my enthusiasm for him. 

I don't think that I heard him talk again until, it 
must have been 1940, and he was in Arizona at the time 
building the — or planning, it never was built — the San 
Marcos in the Desert there and of course building their own 
camp there. So he was asked to speak at the dedication of 
use's new School of Architecture building. This was a very 
amusing talk. And he manipulated the crowd so 
beautifully. He had driven up himself from Phoenix that 
day. He had gone to his son's, Lloyd's house, had bathed, 
changed his clothes, had put on a dinner jacket and, with 
his glasses on a black ribbon around his neck, he walked 
onto the stage in a very jaunty manner. The dean of the 
school of architecture there, what's his name, [Arthur 
Clason] Weatherhead, must have been forced into having 
Wright. He knew very little about him. He had no 


admiration for him at all, and he was something of a 
dunderhead anyway. He introduced — the president of USC , 
what was his name? [Rufus Bernhard] von KleinSmid, who in 
turn introduced Mr. Wright. Anyway, von KleinSmid I'm sure 
had not heard of Wright until that morning, and both 
introductions were very feeble things. Von KleinSmid was 
very much a stuffed shirt in appearance as well as in 
action. When Wright rose, he acknowledged the introduction 
as by Mr. KleinSmid. He left off the von. Nearly everyone 
in the audience I think knew that von KleinSmid's brother, 
who was the president of the University of Arizona at the 
time, did not use the von. So, anyway, it was a very 
amusing talk in which Wright proceeded to tell the audience 
that he didn't believe in schools of architecture. And he 
went on to tell them why. He said things that began to get 
a little bit under everyone's skin. You could just feel 
the temperature rising in there. And then, when it got to 
a certain point, Wright said something, something amusing, 
that just dissolved all opposition, and everything went 
back and was fine. And then in a little while I realized 
that the same thing was building up again. He did it three 
times, and then he said, "Well, the encouraging thing about 
this is that I can say what I have said here this evening 
and not be thrown off the stage." 


Anyway, it was an extremely interesting talk. But I 
still didn't go out to meet him, and it wasn't until, well, 
it wasn't much later. It was still in 1940 I guess that 
Mrs. Paul Frankl called me — it must have been 1940, because 
Jean was living up in Berkeley at the time and the [Weston] 
Havens House was under construction — and asked me to come 
to dinner that evening. She said, "Mr. and Mrs. Wright and 
lovanna are coming to dinner, and I want you to pick them 
up at the Beverly Hills Hotel and bring them." Well, this 
was quite a long while ago, and I had an old DeSoto 
roadster. DeSoto was made by Chrysler at that time, and 
this was a roadster, a blue roadster in two tones of 
blue. It had a rumble seat, but there was no cushion in 
the rumble seat, and the front door on the right-hand side 
had a tendency to fly open when I made a left turn rather 
quickly. The idea of having Mr. and Mrs. Wright and 
lovanna all in the front seat with me just paralyzed me. 
At this time, if you rented a car you rented a seven- 
passenger limousine with a driver in uniform. That is, the 
driver himself came along, and it didn't occur to me that 
you could rent just a car. So I told Mrs. Frankl that I 
couldn't do that, but that I would be pleased, very 
pleased, to come to dinner. She had begun by saying, "I 
know your feeling of reluctance to meet Mr. Wright. But 
forget it." [tape recorder malfunction interrupts 


Well, Mrs. Frankl asked a girl at the office to pick 
them up and bring them, and I went alone and was there 
before the Wrights arrived. I stayed in the back of the 
room when the Wrights entered. Frankl had started to 
introduce me when Wright said, "Oh, I know Harwell," and 
came across the room and put his arm around me and said, 
"Harwell," he said, "you're a great artist. And someday, 
when your hair is as white as mine, you'll be a great 
architect." Then he went on to mention two or three 
buildings of mine, [at] which I was amazed. 

Well, it was a very interesting dinner. V'Je were not 
quite in World War II then. And Wright had been talking 
against our entering and had been writing what they call 
"The Square Papers." But his son Lloyd, with whom they had 
been to dinner the evening before, was a very ardent 
anglophile, and it turned out during the conversation that 
Mr. Wright and son Lloyd had argued until way after 
midnight the night before over the war. So when Frankl 
asked Mr. Wright some question that touched on the war in 
some way, Mrs. Wright immediately interrupted and said "No, 
no, no," and then she mentioned this argument that had gone 
on so long the night before. So nothing happened. 

Well, anyway, after dinner Mr. and Mrs. Laughton-- 
Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester — came in. Wright was 
quite familiar with the Laughtons' films, and, I think. 


owned a number of them. And Laughton knew VJright at least 
by reputation and somewhat by buildings I'm sure. And so 
they fell into a very animated conversation. I found 
myself sitting with Elsa Lanchester and Mrs. Wright. Elsa 
Lanchester I had not only seen in some pictures, in Henry 
VIII she was, was she Anne of Cleves? 
STONEFIELD: I think so, yes. 

HARRIS: And then at the Turnabout Theater which at that 
time was very new, and where she used to give some 
performances and readings, things that were hilarious. 
Anyway, very soon in their conversation, Mrs. Wright, 
probably just to make conversation, said something about 
the weaving, the handweaving that they did at Taliesin, and 
Elsa Lanchester made some very disparaging remark. It 
turned out, I discovered later, it was because as a very 
poor girl, in a very poor family in London, she had to wear 
handwoven things. Anyway, each one turned her back on the 
other very quickly. So then I had to move over to the 
other group for conversation. [laughter] Laughton was 
very pleasant. He had some Renoirs, and when I mentioned 
my admiration for Renoir he immediately invited me to come 
see his, gave me his unlisted number. But I never went, 
for some reason I cannot understand. Anyway, it was an 
extremely interesting evening. [tape recorder malfunction 
interrupts conversation] 


Let's see. Oh, yes. Charles Laughton. Well, anyway, 
it was very pleasant to watch two persons who admired one 
another in different fields, where they could admire one 
another without any difficulty, doing so. I saw Mr. Wright 
a number of times after that. During the war, when we were 
in New York, I had lunch with him and Howard Myers once. 
That was when they were making the preliminary plans for 
the Guggenheim Museum. Mr. Wright invited us to stop at 
Taliesin on our way home to California, so we spent a 
weekend there with Mr. and Mrs. Wright at the end of 
1944. Then, let's see, I saw him again in Mexico City — in 
about 1952 I think — at the Eighth Pan-American Congress of 
Architects there and asked him to talk to the twenty-one 
students from the University of Texas that I had with me. 
He was very obliging, posing in pictures with them. And 
Gropius would not, he was there too. 
STONEFIELD: \^y was that? 

HARRIS: I don't know. Just the difference in the two 
persons. Then I introduced Wright at a meeting in Houston 
a little bit later. The meeting was the National 
Convention of the Cut Stone Contractors and Quarrymens 
Association. The public relations firm for it had decided 
that they should try to interest the architects in this and 
that the easiest way to interest the architects would be to 
have Mr. Wright talk. So they got him down there for that 


and then they proceeded to invite the deans of all of the 
schools of architecture, all five of them, in Texas, to 
come as guests and bring their senior classes. And so I 
went down. Before I left, Karl Kamrath, who knew Wright 
and was very much influenced by him, called me and asked me 
to stop by their office and we would go to lunch together 
before the meeting. When we were in the car headed for 
lunch, he informed me that I was to introduce Mr. Wright. 
I gave up all thought of what I was going to eat or what it 
would taste like, trying to think of what I was going to 

say . 

After lunch we went up to Mr. Wright's room, it was in 
the Shamrock Hotel. The Shamrock Hotel had been the scene 
of the AIA [American Institute of Architects] National 
Convention a few years before when Mr. Wright was given the 
AIA Gold Medal, and Karl Kamrath had driven Mr. Wright out 
to the hotel on that particular occasion. It was in the 
evening. The hotel was outside of town a bit. And Karl 
said, "You see the lights over there, Mr. Wright? That's 
the hotel we're going to." Mr. Wright looked and he said, 
"I see the sham, but where's the rock?" 

Anyway, the town and the newspapers in Houston, were 
still buzzing with some of the insults that they felt they 
had received at the hands of Mr. Wright when he was there 
on that occasion, and so the headlines in the paper had to 


do with Mr. Wright on this particular earlier occasion. I 
remember the hat-check girl in the lobby of the hotel, when 
we were waiting for something and Mr. Wright insisted on 
walking up and down the room with his arm around ray 
shoulder and his cane up in the air. The hat-check girl, 
when we stopped to talk to her, was very eager to talk to 
Mr. Wright. She had no prejudices against anything that he 
had said at all. 

But anyway, we went up to Mr. Wright's room. Just as 
we got to the room, the door opened and out he came, and he 
said he thought he should have a shave so he was going down 
to the barbershop. So we went down to the barbershop and 
sat there while he had a shave. And then he said, "I 
ordered some coffee sent up to the room, so I want to have 
that first." So we went back up to the room. He had 
ordered a lemon with the coffee. Well, neither the coffee 
nor the lemon came. So after a while he called again, and 
then he said, "Harwell, you're too young to introduce an 
old man like me. I'm going to introduce you, is that all 
right?" And naturally I said yes, wondering what he would 
say. Well, anyway, the coffee and the lemon did come. He 
explained that Gurdjieff had told him that if you took 
lemon with the coffee the coffee wouldn't hurt you. While 
we had been sitting in the barbershop, the loudspeaker had 
announced that everyone was to go into the Shamrock Room 


and Mr. Wright would be along shortly. It was then rather 
late even then. It was forty-five minutes later I guess 
when we finally got there. The place was filled, and we 
went up onto the small platform. The president of the 
association introduced the chairman, and the chairman then 
proceeded to introduce me. And as I got up, Mr. Wright got 
right up with me and put his arm around ray shoulder, his 
cane straight up in the air. Lockstep we walked up to the 
center of the podium, he brought his cane down quite hard 
and then proceeded to talk about me. And everything he 
said was correct. That was the amazing thing. He didn't 
say University of Houston, it was the University of 
Texas. And the other things were all quite correct. But I 
had of course prepared my introduction, so, when he was 
through introducing me, I introduced him. And as I would 
mention certain things, Mr. Wright would bang his cane on 
the floor and he would say, "He's talking about Gropius" or 
"He's talking about Le Corbusier" or something else, making 
it a very interesting occasion. 
STONEFIELD: Did you like that? 

HARRIS: Yes, I liked it. I was prepared to like anything 
he did. Well, anyway, the Houston chapter of the AIA, when 
it found that Mr. Wright was going to be in town, moved the 
date of its monthly evening dinner to the date Mr. Wright 
was to be there and asked him to speak. Well, he wasn't 



ery eager to do that. He wasn't being paid for that. And 
so he spoke for not more than fifteen minutes at the most, 
and then, without sitting down, he just picked up his hat 
and coat and started out. But before he had gone very far, 
the president of the chapter was saying to the audience, 
"I'm sure Mr. Wright will be glad to answer any questions 
you may have." Mr. Wright was halfway to the door by that 
time, and he turned around, still clutching his cane and 
coat and hat, and said, "If they're intelligent 
questions." There was great silence. 

But one young fellow who wrote specifications for 
Mackie and Kamrath stood up and said, "Mr. Wright, I think 
I have an intelligent question." 

And Mr. Wright stopped and looked at him and said, 
"What is it?" 

He said, "Mr. Wright, what is your religion?" 

Well, Mr. Wright turned around, came back, put his hat 
and coat down and talked for half an hour I think, and it 
was a really good talk. We wouldn't have had a good talk 
at all if it hadn't been for that question. He thought 
that it was a serious question and he gave it a serious 
answer. And so many of the things that Wright has said and 
done were [done] simply so that he didn't have to listen to 
someone's foolish remarks and questions. And, well, then 
I've seen Wright on other occasions too, and I've had some 


correspondence, Christmas cards and things from him. So, 
from being a god that I keep on a pedestal so high that we 
don't communicate except by buildings and things like that, 
he became more than that, and when — 


AUGUST 23, 1979 

STONEFIELD: You left off yesterday talking about your 
experiences with Frank Lloyd Wright, and before we go onto 
anything else I have a question to ask you. You made a 
very tantalizing comment in the first session about the 
fact that as far as you were concerned all the work after 
1923 that he did wasn't anything to you compared to the 
work that he had done prior to that. And I wondered if you 
could tell me a little bit more about that. 
HARRIS: Well, really I would not feel that we had 
undergone any great loss in the quality of his architecture 
if he had done nothing after 1909. To me everything really 
important had been done, at least in the materials and with 
the clients and the building situation at that time. In 
later work it was simply a translation to a later time with 
different materials and a different class of client that 
really makes the distinction. As far as any real change in 
either form or material that occurred after that, the 
textile block is the thing that stands out in my mind. It 
was what he used in California, immediately after his 
return from Tokyo, first with the Millard House and then 
with the Stoner House and then with the Freeman House and, 
still a little bit later, still in the early 1920s, with 
the — what's the name of the shoe manufacturer, although he 
wasn't that — the large house up on the hill — 


STONEFIELD: Ennis, the Ennis? 

HARRIS: The Ennis House. Those were all very exciting 
things to me. They were buildings in which one is less 
conscious, perhaps, of the form of the life to be lived in 
them as a determinate of the building than of the process, 
material and process, itself. I think it further 
demonstrated the necessity of having something very 
definite and particular on which to begin a design. And if 
you don't have a client that is particularly interesting 
and interest [ed] in the design program and things of that 
sort, then a system of construction or a material can be 
very valuable. That, of course, was true in the earlier 
work of Schindler, where systems of construction were the 
starting point. And in all cases, and particularly in the 
case of Wright, no matter where he started, the design 
spread to take in all sorts of other particulars which 
arose and didn't make it any less livable, any less 
suitable for human occupation and use, and yet never seemed 
to be the beginning point. 

Anyway, the freshness of the design was partly due to 
the newness of the textile block system, which he didn't 
invent. It was really invented by Walter Burley Griffin, 
the architect who worked in Wright's office in the very 
early days, and who later married riarion Mahoney, and who 
won the competition in 1913 for Australia's ne\>/ capital 


city, Canberra. He called his unit "Knit-lock." Anyway, 
this was something new, and the use of the small unit was 
important not only as a structural but also as an 
architectural feature. 

Except for the Guggenheim, I can't believe that the 
other later work added anything particularly to it. And I 
think the fact is that it became more and more the work of 
a fellowship that never seemed able to really invent, but 
only to elaborate on what Mr. Wright had already done, and 
elaboration that impressed one more as mere elaboration 
rather than something truly simple yet highly decorative. 
I would not feel that architecture had lost very much if 
there had been no work after that. 

STONEFIELD: I wonder if he had the same quality as a 
teacher as I^eutra seems to have had in inspiring his 
disciples to go out and develop their own talents to any 

HARRIS: Well, I don't know. In each case the teaching was 
incidental to the disciples watching and helping in the 
development of a design idea that the architect, whether it 
was Wright or Neutra, was engaged in. As I remarked, I 
think in connection with the airport competition, our 
learning was in being ringside watchers and participants in 
the leader's thinking. Although we were not the leaders in 
the thinking, we were there to watch and hear Neutra weigh 


the factors to be considered in any decision and had the 
feeling that we were engaged in that thinking, participants 
in it and contributors in some small way, too. Anyway, it 
was a way to follow through the development of a design 
from the inside in a very, very rapid way and an exciting 
way. It was so very different from learning in the 
customary school of architecture, whether it's Ecole des 
Beaux-Arts or [some] other in which students work 
individually on projects of their own to later submit to a 
jury, having only occasional conferences with the 
instructor. Working on one's own is good, but it takes ten 
times as long to go as far. It depends, of course, very 
much on who the architect is. One has to be enthusiastic 
about the architect, not just as a teacher but as a 
designer. One understands what he does because you see it 
born before your eyes. You're not simply looking at 
something completed and without understanding all of the 
considerations that went into making it. And I think that 
one is then much less inclined to look upon it simply as a 
finished, completed form, standing alone, something born 
full-blown. Here one sees how it developed, realized it 
could have gone this way or that way, that this was just 
one of a number of possible solutions, all of which might 
have been equally good. This is the reason that I think 
this is the best way to teach design. 


STONEFIELD: You vrarked during this period with Gregory 
Ain. What was the kind of relationship that you had? 
HARRIS: Well, our work together was almost entirely on 
projects with Neutra. When Neutra was away we worked on 
individual projects of our own. I got my first ]ob — This, 
however, was after Neutra's return and after Greg Ain had 
gone to work for Neutra in his new office, which he built 
on his return. Greg lived in a room on the lower floor 
there. He was married at the time and housekeeping 
facilities there were extremely limited. And Greg worked 
there for some time. However, Greg became somewhat 
disillusioned with Neutra. He saw other aspects of him. 
And he left in, I guess it must have been early in 1933, 
the beginning of 1933. And we worked together then. 
Because he had no work to begin with, we agreed that each 
would help the other, but only the name of the person whose 
job it was would appear on the plans. Ain did the working 
drawings on the house and shop for the De Steiguers over in 
Pasadena. Later he got the Edwards House. However, he 
insisted upon doing all the work himself on it. And, 
although I followed the design's development, I really 
didn't work on it. Our association was more conversation 
about the work, criticism of one's work by the other, and 
general encouragement of one another, I think, more than 
anything else. We enjoyed working together, and I think 


that we felt ourselves to be a group of two, quite separate 
from everything except Heutra and Schindler. 
STONEFIELD: Your styles were different though, your ideas 
were different. 

HARRIS: Yes, that is true. And they became more different 
as time went on. Greg had worked some for Schindler. He 
had met Schindler even before I had, although he hadn't 
worked for him at that time. And I think that continued to 
influence him somewhat. I think the big difference between 
us occurred in the design of my first job to be built. You 
can see in the drawings of two earlier unbuilt projects, 
how much more like Neutra and Schindler and Ain my earlier 
designs were. I can probably find a perspective sketch of 
an early version of that first project that was built. 

And here comes something that really belongs to 
influences; not simply persons, but building and loan 
companies. When my first project could not be financed, 
looking as it did, I proceeded to change the material, to 
change the shape of the roof, and to change the 
specifications of what went inside. It was a change that I 
was able to make because it was changing to a roof that 
resembled a Wright roof and made some of the other features 
of the house now look a bit more like Wright. It was not 
either Spanish or Georgian and yet it looked more like a 
house, and it was acceptable to the Pasadena Building and 


Loan Company. And, particularly in those days, banks and 
loan companies had a very strong influence on the design of 
buildings, particularly residential buildings. 
STONEFIELD: Were you and Ain different right from the 
beginning in your attitude towards the aesthetics, or did 
you diverge at some point because of something that 

HARRIS: I don't think so. I think we had sort of 
suppressed the differences. Although Ain admired Wright, 
his work never showed, at least in its outward form, any 
real Wright characteristics. In planning I think there was 
something of the sort. And although my first love and 
strongest love is for Wright, rather than for TJeutra, 
still — as I think I remarked — at the time, Neutra, whom I 
very much admired, was present in the flesh and I was able 
to follow him and enter into his work. It was easy for me 
to devote myself more fully to his manner than to 
Wright's. But after I had been away from Neutra, 
gradually, not suddenly but gradually, I found more things 
of Wright creeping back in. 

It was a very fortunate circumstance that I had Neutra 
rather than Wright at the beginning, because I might have 
become so overpowered by Wright's personality that I would 
have not have escaped and would have become simply one of 
the apprentices. And I'm very glad that it came in this 


order. In my later work there is very much of both Wright 
and Neutra, and yet I think what I chose went together 
without any difficulty. There were no contradictions, and 
what was selected of each combined easily with the other. 
3T0NEFIELD: In other words, you were free to pick and 
choose what went into your frame of reference. 
HARRIS: Yes. And when you reach a certain point, somehow 
you don't think you're picking and choosing. It is just 
that one thing comes up in combination with something else 
or calls in something else. And it happens without your 
really stopping to think of where it comes from or thinking 
whether these are compatible or incompatible ingredients. 
STONEFIELD: Were you aware at all of the work of Irving 

HARRIS: I became aware of it first of all through comments 
by Neutra who had discovered Gill. I think Neutra's 
discovery was on some visit of Neutra and Wright together 
to something of Gill. Anyway, I can remember Neutra's 
remarking that he had told Mr. Wright that Gill was someone 
that should not be overlooked, that he was very important 
and they should make more of it. Gill had worked for 
Sullivan in the earlier days when Wright was also there. 
STONEFIELD: Oh, they knew each other. 
HARRIS: They knew one another. Gill had come to 
California earlier. That is, he had come to stay. And the 


fact that Wright already knew him probably caused Wright to 
dismiss him more readily than he would have otherwise. 
Gill was no discovery to him. But Neutra was very much 
struck, principally by the fact that here was an American 
architect, a contemporary of Loos, whose work resembled 
Loos's in its great simplicity of form. The flat, unbroken 
wall, the flat roof, and the apparent devotion to form that 
expressed only the needs of the space enclosed or the 

The one thing that perhaps bothered him some was the 
fact that Gill oftentimes used the arch form. This was 
probably a wise thing as far as attracting clients is 
concerned, because that was one feature that distinguished 
the Mission-style work, which was not considered modern and 
therefore acceptable. I think it was a very good 
feature. It was something that I've always admired in the 
missions. The repetition of the form. It's a unit that is 
repeated and repeated and so the box loses something of its 
boxiness. I think it also takes on a more human scale, and 
it provides a horizontal movement that simply squares 
punched in a flat surface do not. 
STONEFIELD: Were you aware of the Dodge House? 
HARRIS: Yes. The Dodge House. Then I saw the La Jolla 
House for the newspapers heiress, Ellen Scripps. I was 
already rather interested in that because, when I was a 


student-life reporter at Pomona, I was assigned to 
interview a faculty member of the building committee for a 
new biology building that Miss Scripps was giving the 
college. She gave some other things later. So perhaps I 
first heard of her there. I may have seen her house in La 
Jolla and then the Bishop's School there on my first trip 
down to see the bungalow court, Pueblo Ribera of 
Schindler's. I don't know whether it was at that time, but 
I saw the Scripps House quite early and I was interested. 
But I wasn't as overpowered by it as I was by Wright, and 
at the time I was perhaps more interested in the newness 
that I saw in Schindler and Neutra. 
STONEFIELD: You didn't know Gill? 

HARRIS: I never knew him. With Greg, T remember visiting 
a small apartment building in Santa Monica. We were inside 
the building. It was the first Gill building I had been 
inside of and I know I was rather struck by the way windows 
were used. And then later, this was quite a little bit 
later I think, I saw the — Oh, what was that, rather larger 
court, it was housing, presumably for lower middle-class 
workers. It wasn't Sierra Madre, where was it, it was 
out — 

STONEFIELD: Was it Pico Rivera? Something like that? 
HARRIS: I don't know what it's name was. Yes I do. It's 
Sierra Court, 


STONEFIELD: I know which ones you're talking about. 
HARRIS: I remember Fritz Gutheim, the architectural 
writer, the critic among other things, wanted to see it, 
and so we went out together to see it. I don't believe 
that I had seen it before that time. So I was aware of 
Gill, and I admired what I saw. I wasn't as emotionally 
aroused by what I saw as I was by the best of Schindler and 
Neutra and, of course, Wright. But he was certainly one to 
be respected and, as anyone at that time who seemed to be 
somewhat free of the prevailing traditions, he interested 

STONEFIELD: How did you come to begin your own practice, 
to leave Neutra and go out on your own? 

HARRIS: Well, that simply happened because while Neutra 
was away I acquired a client. 
STONEFIELD: How did that happen? 

HARRIS: Well, my best friend got married. That's the way 
such things oftentimes happen. He had been a fellow 
student at Otis. He married. His wife was somewhat older 
than he. She was the buyer for the French Room at the new 
Bullock's Wilshire. But, as far as taste in architecture 
was concerned, maybe in other things, too, it was largely 
the husband's in this case. He was making very little 
money as a sculptor, practically nothing at all, and he was 
working for the Paul J. Howard nursery at the time. 


STONEFIELD: What was his name? Your friend? 
HARRIS: Clive Delbridge. He was a Canadian. He and I and 
one other sculptor, George Stanley, were a trio. George 
continued as a sculptor, and, unfortunately, the piece of 
his that is best known is that very ugly Oscar statuette. 
He did a number of things at the time that may have brought 
him that job. He was doing a portrait, I remember, of the 
daughter of an MGM producer. And he got involved in some 
other things at the studio and — What was the name of one 
of the most prominent directors — Cedric Gibbons, who 
fancied himself something of a sculptor and made a rough 
sketch of what he wanted George to make. I can remember 
when George was working on it, and I can remember my 
criticisms of what he was doing, which he did not deny at 

Anyway, the three of us, throughout two years of Otis, 
saw a great deal of one another. Clive and I read a great 
many things together, at least we were always telling one 
another of some book and recommending to the other what we 
were reading. So it was natural that he would want a house 
by me, and so this was the way it started. In addition to 
his taste, which was influenced very much by the oriental, 
principally the Southeast Asia sculpture — India, Bali, 
Java, and what's the country that was overrun by the 


STONEFIELD: Cambodia? 

HARRIS: Cambodia. We were both very much struck by 
Cambodian sculpture. I can remember our reading many 
things together. I can remember reading Count [Herman 
Alexander] Keyserling's Travel Diary of a Philosopher. 
STONEFIELD: Did you feel particularly drawn to the 

HARRIS: Yes, very much so. As sculpture, I think it 
interested me, perhaps more than any other. We were both 
of us, and I, especially, I suppose, influenced by European 
moderns to some extent, [Aristide] Maillol in particular, 
also [Georg] Kolbe, I can't think of the others right 
now. Not very much by [Alexander] Archipenko. I think we 
both found ourselves more impressed, more emotionally 
involved, with Asiatic art. I was very taken by the 
Chinese. Perhaps the Chinese drawing had a great deal to 
do with this, but so had Chinese sculpture. I think I 
mentioned in our first talk the General Munthe collection 
of Chinese work that came to the museum [Los Angeles County 
Museum of History, Science, and Art] and that I studied and 
enjoyed for guite a long while. Anyway, this was-- 
STONEFIELD: I was just going to ask when you first became 
aware of oriental architecture and involved with that? 
HARRIS: I don't think I can remember the exact time. I 
suppose that it may have been the Japanese house, first. 


But so much of this acquaintance was through books, rather 
accidental juxaposition of books, whether in a library or 
in a bookstore, that led from one thing to another. 
Anyway, Clive and I shared these enthusiasms. The Lowe 
House, which was my first house, was influenced first of 
all by Frank Lloyd Wright's plan forms, next by Neutra or 
Schindler exterior developments — which were later dropped 
in favor of an exterior that resembled much more Wright's 
work, as far as roofs go — then by Japanese interiors with 
their simplicity and sliding panels, and matting on the 

Now, with this part of the Japanese we're getting into 
something else you asked about and that is Carl Anderson's 
influence. Carl Anderson, whom I had met along with others 
who were a part of the S. MacDonald-Wright group, which was 
called the Los Angeles Art Students League — and, in 
passing, let me remark that S. MacDonald-Wright at that 
time was very much interested in Chinese painting — It's 
these asides that get me off track and I have trouble 
remembering where I was-- Oh, yes, Carl Anderson was a 
member of that group. He was furniture designer at the 
time. But he had built a little house for himself. He had 
remodeled a little mountain cabin built on a hillside on 
the same hillside in Fellowship Park in which my own house 
was later built. In fact my first acquaintance with 


Fellowship Park was visiting him. He was finishing work on 
this cabin. He was gradually changing it from this rough 
stone and wood cabin of very nondescript design into a 
Japanese building. He was using this matting on the 
floor. It was not a Japanese matting. I mean it was not a 
traditional Japanese matting. These squares were made in a 
number of places at that time. The best were made in Japan 
out of the sea grass, others were made out of hemp in the 
Philippines, and still others, exactly the same form and 
size, were made in the Caribbean, and the Caribbean is the 
poorest quality of all. Anyway, this was a way of covering 
the floor wall to wall in the same way that Japanese 
matting would do. It was very inexpensive at the time, we 
could buy it for ten cents a square foot. And you could 
walk on it in shoes with heels, you didn't have to take 
them off as you would with a Japanese mat. So it was a 
practical thing. It was a very attractive thing. It was 
exactly a foot square, it could work in with my unit 
system. At that time I was using a three-foot unit, which 
was exactly the width of three squares and, incidentally, 
the width of the customary Japanese sliding panel. So, 
aside from photographs, Carl Anderson's house was probably 
the thing that really interested me in the Japanese 
house. In plan, it couldn't be as simple as it would have 
been if he had started from the beginning. And I proceeded 


to be perhaps more simple in my plan than he could be. It 
was because he had introduced me to the details of the 
sliding panels, to the matting on the floor, and because he 
had some chairs that he had designed — And they're right 
down there, those two low rattan chairs. 

I was designing a room in 1938, or 1939 I guess it 
was, for the New York World's Fair. I suppose I was 
representing California. They had only twelve rooms 
altogether in this "America at Home" exhibition at the 
fair. I wanted to use the matting and I wanted to use the 
chairs, so I asked Carl Anderson to be associated on it. 
He designed nothing for it, except a chaise-longue of 
rattan to go with the chairs, and, yes, he designed two 
tables (I don't know whether he designed them or I, they 
were not his sort of design) and one of them is that old 
wreck that is out there in the garden room now. These were 
laminated bentwood and there were two of them that went 
together. There was some hardware to lock them together, 
and that one still has the hardware on the other side of 

STONEFIELD: How did you come to collaborate with him on 

HARRIS: Well, that was all the collaborating we did. I 
wanted to use these things that he had already designed, 
with the exception of the chaise longue. And so I simply 
gave him credit for it. 



HARRIS: He did not design the room. He designed the 

furnishings, which were a very important part of the 

room. He lived near me there on the hill during the time 

that we were doing this. He sold the place and moved away 

later, and we sold and moved away too. 

STONEFIELD: But you didn't work with him on the Bauer 



STONEFIELD: You didn't? 

HARRIS: Again, I used the same matting and sliding glass 


STONEFIELD: I see. So you just gave — 

HARRIS: And I felt that I owed him the credit for these 

particular features of it. 


HARRIS: I don't think he ever saw the Bauer House. 

STONEFIELD: How do you feel about collaboration? 

Obviously you haven't done it very — So that you must not 

feel it necessary. 

HARRIS: It's a little hard to separate parts of design. 

I've never had partners but twice, and neither for very 

long. The first one was an engineer in Fort Worth. That 

lasted not more than a year, and he didn't attempt to enter 

into anything more than the engineering aspect, engineering 


and some business aspects. The other was a former student 
of mine who was working for me in Dallas in 1961 or '62, 
David Barrow. He was a good designer all right, but the 
preliminary design and a great deal of the other design was 
mine. It's the only way I think that I can work 
satisfactorily, and I think it's the best way. It was the 
way that I worked with Neutra. I gave myself over 
completely with him. I never thought of trying to 
introduce anything that I didn't consider was his. And 
then when I was away from him, then I was completely free. 

HARRIS: But to work for someone and constantly fight that 
influence is a very destructive thing I believe. 
STONEFIELD: What happened, how did your practice progress 
after these initial projects? 

HARRIS: Well, very slowly. If I could have one job a year 
I was doing pretty good. It was the depression as you 
know. The first house was designed in 1933, built in 
1934. Then through a friend of mine, a seismologist at the 
Carnegie and Caltech seismological laboratory there in 
Pasadena, I got a job designing a house for a professor of 
economics at Caltech, Professor Graham Laing. The Laings 
were friends of the Heutras, and I first met them at 
Neutra's, but only once there. I don't think they 
remembered me. But I couldn't forget them. 


AUGUST 23, 1979 

HARRIS: The Laings were friends of the Neutras and I think 
the reason that they didn't go to Neutra for a house was 
that, although they admired his design, they were afraid 
that he would dominate them too much in what they were 
going to do. And, as so often happens, you try to take 
someone that you think will give you the same thing but 
won't force it on you. I've seen this happen. This 
happened with me when someone who has worked for me has 
been chosen for the same reason. I understand it very 
well. Anyway, this was my second house, and I had a little 
more money on this. The first house cost $3,720, and the 
Laing House cost $5,000 and was perhaps a bit more 
Wrightish in its details. The eaves were a little bit 
broader, there was a fascia band running around the rooms 
at doorhead height, the walls were stucco. 

And, then, that summer, after the Laing House was 
practically finished, a cousin of mine in Bakersfield 
wanted to add a room and do a little remodeling to his 
house. So I went up there and spent two or three months 
doing that. And then the Lowe House owners — My friend 
Clive Delbridge and Pauline Lowe were now separated, and 
she didn't like the way the Japanese panels rattled in the 
wind, wanted them removed and hinged, screened doors put 


in, which I did. The contractor sold me the panels for a 
dollar apiece, and with then I proceeded then to design 
this little pavilion up on the hill for ourselves. 
STONEFIELD: Fellowship Park House? 

HARRIS: Yes. And about that time, 1936, I was asked to 
design a house for Edward and Margaret De Steiguer. Do you 
want to go into the details of these things or not? 
STONEFIELD: Well, if you feel that they're particularly — 
HARRIS: It was a house on the south side of Colorado 
Boulevard, and the little shop that went with it — Even 
though it faced on Colorado Boulevard, it was in a district 
that was residential, and the planning commission of 
Pasadena insisted that it was not for business buildings, 
not even this crafts shop that the De Steiguers wanted to 
build there in connection with their own residence, which I 
was designing at the same time. So we had to get a 
variance for that. In working out the shop to make it look 
not like a business building at all, I hit on a roof which 
I later developed more fully. I brought in lighting 
through the roof from the south so that the windows, which 
were show windows in the north wall, would not become 
reflectors merely of what was passing in the street. And, 
to avoid the customary shed roof look, I carried the lines 
of the hips up and over with wide ridge-boards, and then 
turned the roof down slightly again, paralleling the slope 
on the other side, which I liked, which I still like. 


So there was no great change happening in these two or 
three years. I don't remember immediately what the next 
job was, but they came slowly. There was very little being 
built that wasn't residential, and I happened to like 
residential work. The modernists that I was admiring and 
following were residential, at least at that time, 
beginning with Wright, and that was all that tJeutra had at 
the same time, all practically that Schindler had. So I 
became very much settled into house design. 
STONEFIELD: Was there a lot of contact between you, 
socially and otherwise, and other architects during this 
period . 

HARRIS: No, hardly at all. I hadn't known them 
beforehand. I hadn't come up the usual way, either through 
an architectural school, where I would have known others as 
students, nor had I worked as a draftsman in anyone's 
office. So I knew none that way. All that I knew were by 
having them pointed out to me, being told that this 
building or that building was by them, and of course 
hearing some stories. So, I was quite apart from all of 
those, and it was only quite gradually that I came to know 
others . 

In 1930, well, let's see, in 1930 — Well, let's go 
back a little bit. The Lowe House I decided to enter in a 
House Beautiful competition. And I won honorable 


mention. And, to get photographs for it, Carl Anderson 
took me to Fred Dapprich, who had photographed his house. 
Dapprich agreed to photograph mine for nothing and to 
charge me only if I won a prize. VJell, I won a hundred 
dollar prize so I was able to pay him for the 
photographs. He photographed most of my work after that. 
Then, that same house I submitted to Pauline Schindler when 
she was editing a 1935 issue of California Arts and 
Architecture devoted to modern work in California. 

And then, a little bit later in the year (and this was 
what made me acquainted with other architects or made other 
architects acquainted with me more than anything else) was 
the General Electric competition for the design of a small 
house. It drew a great many entries because none of the 
offices had any commercial work to do. This competition 
was won by two young architects, [Paul] Schweikher and 
[Theodore Warren] Lamb, who had built practically nothing 
at the time. The plan that they submitted, which was 
published in Time magazine when announcing the outcome of 
the competition was almost an exact reproduction of my plan 
of the Lowe House, even including some just incidental 
things like a screening wall that ran out three feet beyond 
the intersecting glass wall of the living room, and which 
was a hangover from the time when the house was designed 
for a wider lot and we had a garage there and the garage 


went back three feet further than the living room. When we 
moved the house onto a forty-nine foot lot I had to take 
off the garage and put it around in front, which improved 
the whole thing really. But because the living room glass 
then came right to a corner, which I thought was awkward, I 
just decided to let that piece of wall remain. Well, even 
this was in the winning Schweikher and Lamb design. And 
then, more striking still, was in the Time magazine account 
of it, which gave two sentences from the winners of the 
competition that were word for word from the House 
Beautiful publication. There were two publications by this 
time. The first was House Beautiful and the next was 
Pauline Schindler's — 
STOHEFIELD: Her article. 

HARRIS: Yes, California Arts and Architecture. Well, a 
little bit later when Forum published the whole thing, we 
found there were altogether seven sentences taken almost 
word for word, as well as the floor plan. So suddenly I 
became well known. To have my work stolen was the most 
fortunate thing that ever happened to me. 

HARRIS: And years and years later I would meet people in 
other places, particularly magazine editors, architectural 
magazine editors, who would begin immediately talking about 
the steal. Anyway, this rather helped. 


Now, John Entenza, who was trying to make a place for 
himself as a composer of scenarios for the movies and 
living in a house that his father owned but didn't live in, 
but had to have in this district because he had been trying 
for years, and continued for years afterwards, to be 
elected to Congress from this particular district. And 
John happened to read-- Oh, yes, I've lost another step. 

When I saw this in Time magazine-- I saw it because a 
friend of mine called me up on the phone and said, "I see 
you've won the General Electric competition." This was for 
designs, not for things that had been built. And I didn't 
think it was worthwhile entering the competition. I knew I 
wouldn't win anything. And I said, "Oh, you're kidding." 
And he said "No." He said, "You look in the last issue of 
Time." So I got a copy and looked, and there it was. I 
was convinced then. So then I called George Oyer, who was 
the publisher of California Arts and Architecture, and I 
told him about this, and wondered if he would be interested 
in it. And, although he hadn't been particularly 
interested in the house when it was published before in 
California Arts and Architecture, he was very interested 
now that it had been copied. [laughter] So he decided 
that [in] the forthcoming issue, which was just about to go 
to the press then, he would include this story. And he set 
up two pages, two facing pages, one with their design and 


one with mine, and the heading was something about 
"California architect wins national competition but" (I've 
forgotten) "somebody else wins the money." The S2,000. Of 
course, $2,000 was practically the cost of the house. 
STONEFIELD: They didn't get to keep the money, did they? 
HARRIS: Oh, yes, they did, I'm sure they did. Anyway, he 
ran off proof sheets of this and then sent them to all of 
the architectural magazines before California Arts and 
Architecture was off the press. Neutra, when he saw it, 
wrote a letter to the architectural adviser for the 
competition who was also the editor of Architectural Forum. 

Well, anyway, John Entenza saw this issue of the 
magazine, and he was so interested in it that he simply 
came to see me. And it wasn't until, well, at least a year 
and a half later, that he came back, this time to ask me to 
design a house for him. 

STONEFIELD: What kind of a person was he? How did you 
feel about him? 

HARRIS: Well, he wanted to be a writer. He v\7as a 
graduate, I think, of the University of Virginia, and his 
father was an attorney, and, as I think I started to say, 
John was living in a house that his father owned. He was 
living there rent free. And he was writing campaign 
speeches for his father and doing things like this. And he 
was a bachelor, remained a bachelor. He was a very 
interesting person to talk to. 


As a consequence of this bit of architectural and 
literary plagiarism, I suddenly became a fair-haired boy as 
far as California Arts and Architecture was concerned. And 
then when Mr. Oyer died, which wasn't a great deal later, 
his assistant, Jerry Johnson took over, and so everything 
that I did was immediately published in the California Arts 
and Architecture. And then, suddenly, Jerry Johnson was 
going to have a baby, and the question was who was going to 
run the magazine while she was away. And we suggested John 
Entenza. And so he came in as temporary editor and 
remained as permanent editor. 
STONEFIELD: And acquired the publication? 

HARRIS: Yes. This is something that I don't know how much 
I can truthfully say. He acquired it with very little 
money, just as he built his house with very little money. 
Largely on account of the pressure that his father, and 
particularly his father's partner, a young woman, I've 
forgotten her name for the moment, for whom I also designed 
a house which wasn't built. For her I did move a house 
that IJeutra had built as an exhibition house. Anyway, they 
were able to put pressure on various ones, whether it was 
on a contractor to build a house for John or on others to 
acquire the magazine for him. It was our feeling that 
Jerry had really been cheated in this. That caused our 
break with John. So when a little bit later he was 


starting his Case Study program and asked me to design a 
house for the magazine, I refused to do it. We've seen him 
occasionally since, once, about twenty years ago I remember 
we met at Columbia University, and he was there talking to 
Jimmy [James Marston] Fitch. Saw him down here in North 
Carolina once. We're on speaking terms, all right, but not 
as cordial as we once were. Saw him also once at a 
convention in Chicago. 

He had ability, there was no question about it. We 
were annoyed at the fact that he proceeded to drop the 
California part, not only in the name but also as the 
primary interest of the magazine. Our feeling was that it 
was a regional magazine and that had been its strength. It 
had started as a combination of two magazines. One was 
called California Southland. I remember the editor of 
that, Mrs. Sears. I met her when I was working on the 
model of the Lovell House for Neutra and she came over to 
see it. It was hard for her to take, to accept the design, 
and I can remember her speaking about proportion. She 
hoped, of course, that that would save it. She couldn't 
see anything else that would. Anyway, these two magazines 
had combined, and it was, at the beginning, the official 
publication of the Southern California chapter of the AIA 
[American Institute of Architecture] . Later it grew strong 
enough to do without it, but yet it devoted itself so fully 


to California architecture that it was just as good for the 
chapter, perhaps even better than the chapter had been 
editing it itself. 

STONEFIELD: And then he changed the name. Did he change 
the quality of it, too, or--? 

HARRIS: Well, he wanted to make it an international 
magazine, national, anyway, if not international. I can 
understand his ambition to do that, but I thought it was a 
mistake to do so as long as California was as distinctive 
as it was then. We had discovered this when we began to 
know the editors of other magazines, of Record and Forum 
and directors of the Museum of Modern Art to whom we 
introduced John Entenza. It helped him quite a little bit 
at the beginning too. These other magazines would spot 
things. They very carefully read California Arts and 
Architecture, and if you had something in California Arts 
and Architecture that was any good, you'd immediately get a 
call or a letter from the editor of one of the national 
magazines. It fed the national magazines, and it seemed to 
me that that was its principal function. It was 
distinctive that way. John made a very good magazine out 
of it. It finally failed. He telephoned us one evening 
here in Raleigh, he wanted to sell it. We weren't 
interested then. He knew that we had been very interested 
in the magazine at one time. 


STONEFIELD: What did you think of the Case Study program? 

HARRIS: Well, I think it was a good one. And I don't see 

that that was at all in conflict with the California theme. 

STONEFIELD: That came after he had changed it, though, and 

started to make it more — 

HARRIS: Well, it came along with the other changes that 

came about, not instantly but rather soon. It must have 

been a couple of years at least, maybe more before the name 

was changed. 

STONEFIELD: How was he as a client? You designed his 


HARRIS: He was a very good client. He was the client I 

have quoted as saying — He came to see me about a house and 

I took him out to the Fellowship Park House, which wasn't 

even built, of course, when the plagiarism proposition came 

up. He's a large man, and he looked rather large, and I 

don't know whether the floor shook when he walked or not. 

But, anyway, he said, "This is the kind of house I don't 

want. But if you can design this house, I know you can 

design the house I do want." It was a remark that was easy 

to remember. 

STONEFIELD: The house that you did design for him was very 

different from all of your other things. 

HARRIS: Very different, because he said he wanted a 

different house. First, it had to be a small house, a very 


small house, because he had no money. And it was built of 
definitely less fragile materials. It was on a different 
site. Whether you could call this more masculine or not I 
don't know, but I know that others, [David] Gebhard in 
particular, talked about it as an International Style 
house. I didn't think of it that way at all, but you can 
pick out a flat roof, a plain wall, and perhaps the semi- 
circular driveway and the semicircular edge of the roof 
over the driveway as International Style trademarks, 
although I didn't think of them as that at all. 

The curve came entirely from the fact that I had only 
a fifty-foot lot. It was on a steep slope, it was at a 
blind turn in the street, and it was on filled ground, free 
from the Roosevelt [Pacific Coast] Highway, which had ]ust 
been finished. We put it partly on stilts and as close to 
the street as we could. I didn't want to back out into the 
street with this blind turn. With his 1935 Ford you could 
make a complete turn in a fifty foot circle if you never 
straightened your wheels. So we made a semicircular drive 
so you'd come out head first onto the street, onto Mesa 
Drive. And then, having made this semicircular drive, it 
was just an instinctive reaction to make the contrary curve 
in the roof over it. And then that led to a semicircular 
end on his bedroom at the back, where you could get a much 
wider, a sweeping view down Santa Monica Canyon. I 


considered that the flat roof would be cheaper. It also 
enabled me to be a little freer with the plan, and it was a 
change for a client who was also a change. 
STONEFIELD: He must have had very strong feelings about 
how he wanted everything to be. 

HARRIS: Not a great deal. He was a bachelor. He was 
going to do his own cooking. I had a very small kitchen. 
VJe had no room for a dining room. We had a living room 
that was twenty-four feet long and I think only fifteen 
feet wide. And I put the refrigerator in the kitchen up 
high. Refrigerators weren't quite so big then, and I 
believe we had the compressor and other freezing mechanisms 
in the top. Anyway, I raised it up enough so that a table, 
a standard height table, could sit in front of it and yet 
the door could swing over it. And that table, which I 
designed, was the dining table, which was part of the 
kitchen when it wasn't used for dining. Then the wall 
between the kitchen and the dining room, the whole wall, in 
contrast to the other walls, was a wood panel wall, and in 
it was a sliding door. So that guests would come into the 
living room, see no provisions for dining whatever, and 
then, when Entenza slid the door back, here was the table 
already set and on wheels, and he simply pushed it out into 
the living room. I don't know that there were any other 
things that were particularly affected by his way of 


living. The living room was not large. We had a very 
large hearth to make the fireplace seem even larger. And 
vv?e tied into the hearth a built-in sofa, which I also 
designed. It could even be used as a guest bed. And above 
that we had clerestory openings, quite high up, through 
which one could see the line of eucalyptus along the top of 
the ridge on the south. And on the north, one looked 
through two pairs of sliding glass doors which filled an 
eighteen-foot-wide opening. That left three feet at one 
end for a glass door which was a hinged with a screen door 
over it and could be used for ventilation, and at the other 
end the three-foot-wide opening into the bedroom. This way 
no screens were necessary over the large sliding door 
openings, and they then gave direct communication without 
any change in floor level to a deck, which was made up of 
spaced two-by-fours which allowed the rain to go through. 
The doors were on barndoor hardware, which was very cheap 
and had wood which made them much cheaper than the metal 
that we would get at that time. So the fact that it cost 
only $3,120 isn't so terribly surprising, despite the fact 
that it was hillside construction. Anyway, John lived in 
it for quite a long while. And then later, Charles Eames 

STONEFIELD: Are you thinking of his wife? 
HARRIS: I mean the Finn. 



STONEFIELD: I don't know who you're talking about. 
HARRIS: His father won the second prize in the Chicago 
Tribune Tower competition in 1923, came here at the 
invitation of an industrialist and established the school 
up in r-lichigan. He was a great planner. The son was a 
graduate of Yale, designed many things for Yale. He 
designed the Dulles Airport. Go on-- 
STOtJEFIELD: Oh, Saarinen. 

HARRIS: Saarinen, Eero Saarinen. I had met Eero Saarinen 
when Charles Eames had brought him into the office one day 
when he was out there. Eames was designing a studio for 
the sculptor daughter of — Oh, what was her name, was it 
Annette Kellerman? No, it wasn't. She was a very famous 
woman swimmer of the time. Well, anyway, John met Eero 
through Eames, who was not living there at the time, wasn't 
married at the time, or wasn't married to his later wife 
Raye. They did some Case Study houses I think, and then 
they ended up by designing a house for John out there in 
the canyon, somewhere near Eames 's own house. 
STONEFIELD: When you think back on your list of clients, 
what characteristics would you say would make a really 
perfect client? 


HARRIS: Well, a perfect client is an intelligent client 
with a lot of imagination who wants a great deal and has 
the money to pay for it. [laughter] What I'm trying to 
say is that it takes a person who wants more than just what 
his neighbor has to make a good client. It takes a person 
who makes the architect stretch himself. He needs to want 
a lot and he needs to demand a lot. He simply has to 
demand it intelligently is all. He comes more nearly to 
being a perfect client than the one who says, "Here, you 
have this much money, design whatever you want." He's the 
poorest client of all because you have nothing to begin 
with and nothing to jolt you out of design thoughts or 
habits of your own past. 

STONEFIELD: What happened — this is a complete change — what 
happened, when the Second World War started, to 
architecture in Los Angeles? 

HARRIS: Well, things didn't close down quite as quickly 
there as they did in the East. I can remember various 
visitors, architects from the East, such as Carl Koch, 
accompanied by his father, who came to see me. Everything 
had closed up in Massachusetts sometime before, and they 
were very pessimistic. I was still quite optimistic. But, 
to most architects, we were still in the Depression. I had 
started in the Depression, so depression was normal as far 
as I was concerned. I continued the office until it was 


quite obvious that things were going to close down 

STOMEFIELD: When was that? 

HARRIS: Well, we closed the office in 1943. It was 
actually when jobs under construction had been entirely 
finished. Some had started at the very beginning of the 
war. The Havens House was started just before and it was 
finished just a week or two before Pearl Harbor, December 
7, 1941. And I had under construction at that time the 
Birtcher House in Los Angeles, the Lek House in La Jolla, 
and the Treanor House up in Visalia. And when those were 
done, I don't think I took on any other work, nothing of 
any size or interest that I can remember. So we simply 
decided to see the East, which I'd never seen, and we went 
to new York. We stayed there from about April, 1943, until 
about December, end of November, '44. We were there almost 
two full years. And by that time, the war was over in 
Europe but not in Japan, but it was obvious that it was 
going to be over very, very shortly, and I was very eager 
to get back into practice. 

While we were in New York I was a visiting design 
critic part of the time at Columbia University. I worked 
half a day most of the time for Donald Deskey, an 
industrial designer, on architectural projects, various 
ones. The one I think that was most interesting was 


designing a utility core. Deskey was convinced that when 
the war was over the airplane manufacturers would be 
without anything to do. With all their equipment they 
should be building prefab houses. He had already designed 
a prefab ski shelter that had been an exhibit in the New 
York 1938 [actually, 1939-40] fair. "Ski shack" I think is 
what he called it. Anyway, he was not busy with the prefab 
house. There were two aspects of it. One was the building 
itself, the structure, and he had Robert Davisson busy on 
that. And the other was a utility core around which the 
house would be built. 

I came in simply because Howard Meyers of the Forum 
had recommended me to Deskey, who put me on a project that 
was just starting. Also on this project was Lawrence 
Kocher. Lawrence Kocher had been editor of the Record back 
in the late twenties and thirties. He was the editor of 
the Record when our airport competition was published. He 
was also, incidentally, the uncle of the contractor who 
built John Entenza's house. Before he had been on the 
Record, he had been dean of architecture at the University 
of Virginia. He was Swiss by ancestry, although American 
born. He was born in Stockton, California. He was an 
extremely likeable person. While he was on the Record he 
became very interested in the Rockefellers' desire to 
rebuild Williamsburg, and he devoted two issues of the 


Record to that subject. It was rather strange, because he 
was a committed modernist and yet he was quite interested 
in this. And when all this was over, later, through with 
this work there, he retired to Williamsburg, to some kind 
of a job there, and did some further guest teaching I think 
in the College of William and Mary there. 

Anyway, he had been thinking about this utility core 
and decided it should have a prefab fireplace in it, a 
woodburning fireplace. I was very skeptical that we could 
make a decent plan around the core with a fireplace, 
because it meant that we not only had to have a wall of the 
core connecting with a kitchen, a laundry, and a bathroom 
but also a living room. The circulation problems that one 
would get with all of this right there in the middle seemed 
too difficult. So I sat down first to design some floor 
plans of buildings to go around it, buildings, that might 
[be] prefabricated as well. And, to my great surprise, I 
worked out three plans very quickly that kept the 
circulation outside the center and they all worked fine. 
So then I was all for it. I did most of the design work on 
it. It became a rather large core because it not only had 
to provide for the fireplace, which was recessed in it, but 
[also] connections for the kitchen, the bathroom, and the 
laundry. But we got them all in. Since it had to have 
periphery enough to space all the plumbing fixtures, it was 


large. I forgot whether it was eight or ten feet square. 
I think we got it down to eight feet. But, anyway, it was 
a bit big. We had some vacant space inside, so we put the 
water heater and furnace in there. And then, because it 
meant not only the fireplace, but the kitchen sink, the 
laundry equipment and the bathroom fixtures were in the 
building's center, they were far away from any windows in 
outside walls. So then the problem was to see if we 
couldn't light them through the roof. So around the 
chimney I put a light shaft that gave daylight into each of 
the four rooms. 

Well, the war ended shortly after I got back to 
California. I was very eager to get back because I wanted 
to get back into building design. I had no sooner arrived 
home than Joseph Hudnut, who was dean of Harvard and who 
had brought [Walter] Gropius there to begin with and then 
[Marcel] Breuer and, what's the name of the planner. 
Englishman who had been editor of British Architectural 
Reivew, I think he still lives in New Haven, Tunnard, 
Christopher Tunnard. Anyway, Hudnut telephoned and offered 
me an associate professorship at Harvard. If he had done 
that before we left New York for California, I undoubtedly 
would have taken it. I'm glad, though, that I didn't, 
really, because I did get back into work, and the work I 
could do in California I wouldn't have found the clients 
for in the East. 


And then there was a call, almost immediately after 
that, from industrial designer Donald Deskey who said that 
he had a client for the utility core. His proposed client, 
the one with whom he had been talking all of this time, was 
the aircraft manufacturer, Glenn Martin, down near 
Baltimore. Anyway, the war was over and Glenn Martin had 
plenty of orders for airplanes. All the companies found 
that to be the case and they didn't have to go into 
pref abrication housing as some of the others like 
Consolidated Aircraft [Company] down in San Diego — it later 
took another name. General Dynamics, and moved to Fort 
Worth. So Deskey had to go elsewhere for a client, and he 
went to Borg-Warner, and Borg-Warner ' s subsidiary, 
Ingersoll Steel and Disc Company, bought the utility core 
des ign . 


AUGUST 23, 1979 

HARRIS: So I came to a meeting in Chicago with Mr. 
Ingersoll, the president of Ingersoll Steel and Disc 
Company. We discussed the utility core's influence on 
housing, and I was delighted to discover that Mr. Ingersoll 
was not interested unless what he was going to build and do 
was something that had more than mere commercial value. He 
decided that they would build examples of houses using the 
core, and we would have a variety of houses. Donald Deskey 
chose the architects, and, because I had designed it, he 
gave me the largest of the houses to do. It was 
unfortunately too large in my opinion, because it had to 
have three bedrooms, and you needed more than one bath to 
have three bedrooms. However, we went ahead with it. 
Others that he had there who designed other ones — Ed 
[Edward D.] Stone designed one. He had the smallest one. 
He put it up on stilts, and then when it was well along he 
said, "Isn't it a shame to waste all of this ground down 
here?" So they let him close it in. So his actually came 
out to be the biggest. And — What's his name in Midland, 
Michigan? His father, or his family is the chemical 
company there. Oh, Dow, Alden Dow. There were five of us 
I think altogether and the Forum ran a special issue with 
all five houses in it. 


STONEFIELD: These were never built? 

HARRIS: They were built. 

STONEFIELD: Oh, they were? 

HARRIS: They were built. Mine was built out of very poor 

material. It was redwood with a natural finish. The 

redwood was full of sap-wood and it looked like the lining 

of those old cedar closets with the narrow boards, part red 

and part white. I never saw the house after it was 

finished, only the photographs. 

STONEFIELD: Where was it built? 

HARRIS: It was built in Kalamazoo, 'Michigan. 

STONEFIELD: We never have really discussed your wife, who 

has strong architectural interests. I wonder if you could 

tell me when you met her and what her background was? 

HARRIS: Well, when I met Jean she was a social worker. 

She had done some other things. She had been assistant to 

the physician for women at UCLA — then called SBUC [Southern 

Branch, University of Cal if ornia] --when it was out on North 

Vermont Avenue, and she had worked for the Travelers' 

Aid. But she wasn't really interested in any of the work 

that she was doing. 

STONEFIELD: She had gone to Berkeley she said. 

HARRIS: As a student, yes, she had entered Berkeley in 

1914, must have been, because she graduated in '19. She 

took a degree in economics because she was convinced that 


that was something she could never teach, and she was 
afraid that if she took something that she could teach she 
would end up teaching, which she didn't want to do. She 
went to New York directly after graduation from Berkeley, 
without even going home. She went to New York with only 
thirty-five dollars in her pocket. Her ambition was to 
work in every industry in which women were employed and 
maybe become the first woman Secretary of Labor. Anyway, 
she lived a part of the time with friends, the Gumbergs. 
Emma Gumberg she had met when she was in college. Emma had 
married a Russian who was an adviser to Chase National Bank 
at the time, an adviser on all things Russian. He had 
participated in takeovers of banks and all sorts of 
things. Anyway, she lived with them part of the time and 
part of the time in Greenwich Village. But her great 
interest was in the labor movement. She was advised to go 
into the garment industry because that was where she could 
do the most good. And so that was her interest up until 
the time she returned to Los Angeles when she went into 
this other work. She was married during this time in New 
York to a labor leader. They were no longer living 
together. When we met, we were the only two sober persons 
at a party and that drew us together. Her interest in 
architecture really began after that. She was acquainted 
with the Schindlers. But it had been not on account of 


architecture, but the Schindlers' parties which included 
people of all sorts, radicals of every kind. But the start 
of our acquaintance-- 

STONEFIELD: Was it at a Schindler party that you net? 
HARRIS: No. No. I don't think they had any drunken 
parties at Schindler's. This wasn't particularly 
drunken. I'm trying to remember the name of the girl whose 
party it was. Anyway, she became interested in 
architecture on account of my interest. VJe were not 
married for two or three years. She had met the Neutras at 
the Schindlers. In fact, she had met them the second day 
after Dione had reached this country. So she really knows 
more about the early parties at the Schindlers than I do 
because they really preceded my part in them. I had met 
Schindler, but I was not in on these other things. Well, 
it was really before I met Schindler, I guess, because that 
was at least '26, if not the beginning of '27, and it must 
have been '25 when Jean first met them. 

STONEFIELD: What kind of work did she do when she became 
interested in architecture? 

HARRIS: Well, she continued as a social worker for the 
county of Los Angeles up until the time she gave up work 
altogether and we managed to make it on the one commission 
a year that I would get. 


STONEFIELD: That continued to be the pattern of your 

practice, you would have one major thing--? 

HARRIS: Well, that was about all. They increased, but 

that was about all at the time. 

STONEFIELD: Even after your notoriety? 

HARRIS: Well, maybe we had two that next year, I don't 

know. No one had any work. Work in all of the offices was 

very slow, most of them were closed. 

STONEFIELD: California architecture during the twenties 

and the thirties held tremendous promise, producing a 

different kind of building than what was going on in the 

rest of the country. David Gebhard, at one point, 

commented that he felt it had never really fulfilled its 

promise. Do you agree with that? 

HARRIS: Well, I — [telephone rings] 

STONEFIELD: v;e were talking about your wife, Jean, and her 

involvement in architecture. 

HARRIS: Well, when we went to New York Jean had nothing 

particular to do and she became interested, then, in 

food. I don't know what had preceded this to make her 

particularly interested in it, not that she wasn't a good 

cook. But now she became interested in it as history, 

although perhaps not so much at first as history as a 

system. When we returned to California, this interest 

continued, and Elizabeth Gordon, the editor of House 


Beautiful, whom we had met in New York when she published 
the Havens House in the summer of 1943, at Jimmy [James 
Marston] Fitch's suggestion, asked Jean to consider writing 
a column, becoming the first food editor of House 
Beautiful. This Jean did for a year and a half or more 
from Los Angeles, not from New York. So she had to learn 
rather rapidly then. Before we had returned from New York, 
Jean remembered a remark of Mr. Walter Webber about Greene 
and Greene, and so she decided that we would look them up 
when we got back. If they were still alive we would see if 
there wasn't something that could be done to give more 
recognition to their work. Jean found that Henry Greene 
was living in Pasadena with his daughter and [her] 
husband. And we called on him. We asked about the 
drawings. I think we talked about this once before, didn't 

STONEFIELD: No, we talked about [inaudible]. 
HARRIS: Anyway, we gathered him in the car, he was in his 
middle seventies, and we went hunting for the house in 
which he had lived before he moved in with his daughter. 
It was a house that he had designed for his wife and 
himself and his wife's mother. It was a duplex house and 
the mother-in-law's part was the largest half of the 
duplex. The drawings had just been left there in a cabinet 
that was out in the garage. So Mr. Greene got out the key 


to the cabinet, and, after wandering around a bit, because 
we couldn't find the house immediately, we found it and 
went to the door. The woman who answered wasn't very 
helpful. Mr. Greene explained that he was the former owner 
of the house and that he had left in the garage, when he 
left the house, a cabinet with drawings in it that he would 
like to have and showed her his key. She said, "Oh, yes, 
yes, I remember them. We've been talking about clearing 
out the garage and clearing out all those things." So we 
were actually just in time. The key fitted the lock. 
However, we really didn't need a key because the back was 
completely off the cabinet. Water had got in, things were 
badly stained, crumpled and mice had got in. And because 
mice seem to like paper, they had eaten through everything 
that was paper or had paper on the outside. This included 
most of the prints, which were paper. However most of the 
drawings were on linen, not on paper, and so there wasn't a 
great deal that was destroyed. Anyway, there was an 
enormous amount of material there. I can't remember the 
number of rolls. I can remember the jobs went up into the 
four hundreds and something. And I can remember one job 
sheet numbered 105. While it was a small sheet it's true 
there was a great deal of material and it was all wrapped 
in tight rolls. It had the smell of mice that lasted for 
years and years, and the car in which we carried it smelled 


for years afterwards, too, on account of that. Well, the 
older brother — 

HARRIS: Charles Greene was living in Carmel at the time, 
and so we finally decided that we would like to bring the 
two brothers together and, if possible, have a photograph 
of them and talk about what might be done with their 
material either in magazine articles or a book. And so we 
made the trip up there. I had arranged for Edward Weston, 
who was living in Carmel, to photograph the two. Cole 
Weston actually did the work. We proceeded to visit all of 
the Greene and Greene buildings that we could find that 
were still standing. In very few were the original owners 
still living in them. In fact I'm only sure of one, and 
that was the Gamble. Oh yes, there was another, the 
Blacker. Then, because Jean was writing architectural 
pieces also for House Beautiful, she took this material to 
Elizabeth Gordon, and Elizabeth Gordon became quite 
interested in it. So I guess the first pieces on Greene 
and Greene that had been written in years were these in 
House Beautiful. This was followed with articles by Jean 
both in the Record and in the Forum. 

STONEFIELD: The Greenes had been generally neglected for a 
long time. 


HARRIS: Yes. You see, World War I had closed them out. 
There was very little work that was done by them after 
World War I. They officially closed their office in 
1915. I don't remember just what year Charles moved to 
Carmel, but the only thing of any size that he had done 
there was the — I don't remember the name of the house. It 
was a large stone house, unlike any of their wooden houses 
in the south, running down the cliff into an inlet there, 
[and with] great buttresses. The original owner was still 
there. It's the James House. And that was where we 
photographed them together. Then later Charles came down 
for a visit, and then one of Charles's two daughters — one 
lived in Carmel and was interested in horses and had a 
livery stable, and the other was married to a Brazilian. 
The second daughter was home on vacation and she also came 
down and we had long conversations with her. 
STONEFIELD: How were they generally regarded by other 
architects and by their families and--? 

HARRIS: Well, they were no longer competitors in any way, 
so other architects could look upon them with favor. But I 
don't think any of them thought of them as being anything 
more than simply something out of a past that was entirely 
gone . 

STONEFIELD: Was their architecture considered relevant to 
anything that was going on, for example, then? 


HARRIS: No, I don't think so at all. Now of course there 
were sone others, like [Bernard] Maybeck. But he too was 
thought of as almost as much a part of the past, although 
he had been more involved with people in Berkeley and this 
had kept alive their interest in him. Then there are a few 
things, like the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and 
the Christian Science church in Berkeley, which were more 
in the public eye than private residences would have 
been. So I don't think he was quite as much forgotten as 
Greene and Greene. 

STONEFIELD: He was still working? 

HARRIS: No. Any work that he did was not for anything to 
be built at all. I remember Jean visiting him once and he 
had his drawing board out in the yard. He lived in a 
little house that had been built with walls made with 
gunnysacks dipped in Bubblestone, which was a material that 
he had suggested to an engineer, with whom I later talked, 
as something that might be used as a substitute for wood in 
places where wood was no longer available, parts of the 
world that he had been reading about. Bubblestone was a 
lightweight concrete and, as far as I know, the first of 
the lightweight concretes. I first heard about it when I 
was designing prefabs, projects only. But I was designing 
in every material and with this lightweight material I was 
casting thin slabs with metal-lath reinforcing and with 


edges of sheet metal that would enable them to interlock 
like a tongue-and-groove in boards. After I had heard 
about Bubblestone, I wrote to Berkeley to the engineer, and 
I was sent five or six little cubes of it, varying in 
weight from 30 pounds a cubic foot up to 90 pounds a cubic 
foot. Ordinary concrete is 140 pounds without 
reinforcement. At this time I had no idea that Maybeck was 
involved in it at all. 

Anyway, he lived in this little house with walls made 
by simply dipping sacks in it and hanging them in shingle- 
like fashion over a wood framework where they hardened. He 
had a drawing board outside which he worked on, and on this 
particular occasion he was making drawings showing the 
Palace of Fine Arts loaded on barges and being ferried down 
the river for farmers to use. He had no interest in it 
anymore, he declared. 

STONEFIELD: Farmers to use for what purpose? 
HARRIS: Oh, I don't know, barns I suppose. But, anyway, 
there was already at that time some talk about preserving 
the Palace of Fine Arts, and he refused to get interested 
or excited in it. And this was probably just a 
demonstration of his lack of further interest in it. Jean 
got into the work on Maybeck through Gerald Loeb. He was a 
senior vice-president of E. F. Hutton [&] Company and was 
living in New York. [He] saw the Havens House in the Forum 


when it was published and called George Nelson, who was an 
associate editor of the Forum, and asked him to speak to 
the architect of that house and ask for permission for Loeb 
to see it when he came next to San Francisco. George said, 
"Well, you can ask him yourself. He's here in tiew York 
right now . " 

So he called me and I had lunch with him. He told me 
that — But I'm getting into another subject altogether. He 
told me, anyway, that he had a farm out in Connecticut near 
Redding, and there was an old farmhouse on it, an 
eighteenth-century farmhouse that he had remodeled some, 
and that he wanted to build a modern house there. He had 
written to Frank Lloyd Wright and almost a month had passed 
by and he hadn't heard from Mr. Wright. And if Mr. Wright 
wouldn't do it would I do it? Actually, I was flattered 
with that and said yes, I would be glad to do it if Mr. 
Wright wouldn't do it, but, if he could get Mr. Wright, he 
surely should, because Mr. Wright wasn't going to live much 
longer and it would be worth a lot more if Mr. Wright did 
it. Of course 1943 was quite a while before 1959, when Mr. 
V-Jright died. 

Anyway, we became well acquainted with Loeb and then 
they did get started on this thing. In every trip that 
Loeb made to California (he made about four of them a year) 
after stopping in Phoenix to confer with Wright, he would 


call and stop and see us in Los Angeles. So he kept us up 
to date on everything that was happening. And when he 
found that-- Oh, yes, and another thing that happened at 
this first meeting, Mr. Loeb said, "When I was seventeen 
years old, that was in 1917, my mother built a house and 
she let me handle all of the negotiations with the 
architect. And the architect was Bernard Maybeck." He 
said, "It was a very fine house, and I had a great deal to 
do with it." Then he said, "But it would have been a finer 
house if I hadn't had so much to do with it." 

Well, no remark could melt one more than that did me, 
and as a consequence of that, I'm sure, he gave Wright a 
completely free hand, which was a mistake really. Wright 
simply knew that he had a man with a lot of money and a 
large site and he simply proceeded to design what he would 
probably have done for himself. He included a large 
orchard enclosed with a wall, he had stables — and Loeb, who 
was crippled from polio when he was a child, never was on a 
horse in his life--did all sorts of other things there. 
Made a magnificent design, but — And if it could have been 
built immediately, it would have been built. But the war 
was too far from over for one to have the facilities and 
the permission, even, at that time to build something of 
that sort. All that you could build, at least in 
California at the time, was a house for a veteran, and it 
couldn't cost more than 510,000. 


So, anyway, that design proceeded at that time. But 
when Loeb found that Jean was planning articles and a book 
on Greene and Greene, he immediately suggested that she do 
the same thing with Maybeck and that he had some money, a 
grant he could make for it. His first proposal was to give 
the money to the Museum of Modern Art. But Jean objected 
strenuously to that. Although we were very friendly with 
the Museum of Modern Art, still it was so completely out of 
character, its sympathies anyway, with the sort of work 
that Maybeck had done that she persuaded him to give it to 
the university at Berkeley. And the interesting thing was 
that the provost there who was in charge of it was one that 
Jean had had as a Latin teacher back before 1919. So, on 
the basis of that, she started some research on Maybeck, 
too. And I'm quite certain that it was the new interest 
that was aroused--an interest not simply in Berkeley, but 
nationally--by it that led to Maybeck's receiving the AIA 
Gold Medal. 

STONEFIELD: Did this awakening of interest that Jean had 
in Maybeck and Greene and Greene affect your work at all? 
Or had you already drawn from them in their work all that 
there was for you to get out of it? 

HARRIS: Well, I don't think there was very much in the way 
of particulars. I don't think you could say there was any 
in the case of Maybeck that you can point to in the 


design. In the case of Greene and Greene I think that 
there is. The regard for the site, the interest in the 
garden, the attempt to make one as congenial as possible 
for the other, these I think, together with perhaps, yes, 
I'm sure of this, carrying the stick-and-board character of 
Greene and Greene further than I had before. 

Along at this time I became very conscious, from the 
experience that I had had with what I had built, of the 
behavior of wood as the weather works on it, not just its 
color, but the way it twists and shrinks, the way parts 
separate. And I became very conscious of the destruction 
of continuity that is got by simply butting together the 
ends of boards ten, twelve, sixteen feet long when trying 
to make something thirty or forty feet long. Continuity 
would be very much damaged if you see joints opening up and 
if two butting boards change color differently and if one 
twists this way and the other that way and if the nails 
that joined them together mark them with rust. I suppose 
in seeing all of the separate sticks that made up a Greene 
and Greene house, I realized that the way to get continuity 
was to work not with unbroken lines but with broken lines, 
broken at regular intervals, and preferably rather small 
intervals, then one wouldn't be conscious of the break. 
It's simply a step in a journey. 


I began playing up individual pieces in other ways as 
well. In the Wylie House I carried it to considerable 
length. There, above a gable facing south in which I 
wanted the glass to go quite high and from which I wanted 
to shade the sun without darkening the room too much, I 
simply carried on with open rafters beyond the solid 
roof. This was a thought that came to me having looked at 
Greene and Greene roofs, not with rafters going that way, 
but with the ends of rafters sticking out beyond the edge 
of the roll roofing at the eaves. I realized that one 
could expose structure like that and I simply exposed it 
this other way. [telephone rings] 

So I found myself thinking always of the structure in 
terms of the available lengths of pieces of material, with 
the joint between them made a very prominent feature, 
located always where it became a part of the design and 
making more joints than might be necessary otherwise in 
order to make the repetition of the joint an integral part 
of the design. This was the way I found I could get 
continuity, unlimited continuity, with short separate 
pieces of material. There are other ways of course in 
which Greene and Greene had an influence on me in addition 
to that and the harmony with the landscape. There was also 
the unified character of total design, of the imprint of 
one mind visible in every part of the building, everything 


in the building and in the garden and, in many cases, the 
objects selected for it, all the way from rugs and curtains 
and fabrics, well, to the piano case which they designed 
for the Gamble House. 

STONEFIELD: Did you have the opportunity to do that kind 
of total design when you were doing residences? 
HARRIS: Not very much. First of all, no one had the money 
for it. And either they had no furniture, or they had no 
money to buy furniture, or they had to use what furniture 
they had. Most of my clients in those earlier days were 
comparatively young. They didn't have a lot of heirlooms, 
and so I was relieved somewhat from that. And I did design 
some furniture. I designed some chairs and a great many 
sofas and quite a few tables and some movable cabinets. 
That's about as far as it went. And they had to be pieces 
that could be built in an ordinary mill or by the carpenter 
on the job. They were not done by professional furniture 
makers, so I learned to think of furniture designed in 
terms of that kind of production. And it had the 
advantage, I guess, of making the furniture a bit more in 
character with the building than it might have been 
otherwise. I know in describing Schindler's Kings Road 
House, I described the furniture in it as looking as though 
it were an offspring of the house. That's sort of the way 
it was. You felt that it grew out of the house and wasn't 
something that was just assembled in the house. 


STONEFIELD: Mrs. Neutra was interviewed as part of this 
oral history project and at one point stated that that 
house was a house made for an ideal world, not a real 
world, and that it was an uncomfortable house to live in 
because of the lack of privacy and so on. Did you feel 
that way about it or--? 

HARRIS: Well, it was designed for a way of living, as well 
as a way to get the most for the money, and it fitted in 
very fully with Schindler's idea of living. !]ow just 
before they built this, RflS [Rudolf M. Schindler] and 
Pauline went on a camping trip in Yosemite. They had ^ust 
finished, I guess. Hollyhock House. Anyway, that job had 
reached a point where they could have their first rest. 
And, as you will notice in reading one of the letters in — 
STONEFIELD: Esther McCoy's book. 

HARRIS: --Esther McCoy's book, the great pleasure they had 
in it. Sleeping out in the open in a tent and the 
simplicity of life appealed very, very much to them. I 
think maybe almost as much to Pauline then as it did to 
RMS. Anyway, they came back and decided to build this. 
And he describes it somewhat, that is, their decision to 
build, in a letter to Neutra written ]ust after that. So 
it was to be as simple as could be. Of course it couldn't 
be fully built to begin with. They had cloth instead of 
glass in the frames making their windows and doors. An 


uncolored cement slab was the floor. The bathtub was 
simply made out of tar paper, roofing paper, to begin 
with. Later they were able to make it out of cement. I 
noticed when I visited Pauline about four years ago that 
there was tile over the cement tub now. But it was all 
extremely simple. Sleeping outdoors was something that 
Schindler picked up, I think, from this trip. Anyway, it 
certainly determined him to make that a feature of the 
house. So the bedroom was what he called a "sleeping pod" 
on the roof of the house, and it left the ground floor room 
clear then for the work that each was to do in it. That 
is, you realize from the description that was given, each 
person, RMS, Pauline, and then the other couple that were 
there, had his own room in which he worked. There was a 
kitchen that was to serve all four of them, and one wife 
did the kitchen work one week and the other wife another 
week. This was a completely different kind of house. 

Now if one tries to live in that house the way he 
would live in an ordinary house, it would be quite 
difficult. But this simplicity is another feature that it 
has in common with the Japanese house. There is form to 
living and form to building and they are made congruent. 
They have to be forms that don't conflict with one 
another. And so the Japanese have a formalism in their 
behavior that is simply a part of their joy of living in 


the house, in acting in accordance with the forra of the 
house. The two forms coincide with one another, and it's 
the pleasure of that coinciding, just as two partners in a 
dance, the pleasure that they get of moving together. That 
was the nature of that house. It was one of the great 
pleasures of it, the joys of it, and the thing that a 
person who wants to live as he would in an ordinary house 
would find infuriating. 

To some degree one finds the same thing true in a 
Frank Lloyd Wright house. Regardless of how large or 
expensive or elaborate it might be, it is designed for a 
form of living. And as long as that form is one that you 
are in agreement with, that you enjoy following, then the 
fact that the house is made for that form means that you 
sweep along in it with the greatest of pleasure. And if 
you don't do that, then you are infuriated and, as many 
clients or residents have done, their anger at the building 
and at Mr. Wright is taken out by destroying the building 
in all the various ways they can do it, getting back on the 
building . 

STONEFIELD: Mrs. Neutra also made some kind of a 
statement, I believe, that this house was Schindler's 
interpretation of what California living was supposed to 
be. Do you feel that it was made possible by the fact that 
California has a benign climate? 


HARRIS: Well, it was his particular form of California 
living. And, as I say, his real introduction to it I think 
was this trip. Now he had been west once before, he had 
been in New Mexico and other parts of the West. I think he 
may have come as far as California, but he didn't spend 
much time here. And he was impressed with various 
things. He was impressed with the largeness and the 
openness of the landscape. He was impressed with the 
simplicity in form of the native Indian building, the-- 


AUGUST 23, 1979 

HARRIS: V^Jhat Schindler discovered in California, 
particularly in this first opportunity to explore it, to 
see more than just what you could see from the top of Olive 
Hill, was this trip. And he never got over it. The 
pictures of him when he was a younger man, you see him in a 
conventional suit with a stiff collar and a tie and closely 
cropped hair. All of this disappeared then. He became 
much more casual. There was the influence of the bohemian 
crowd, probably, that he was with, but I think it was 
primarily the feeling that the natural life, the normal 
life here, was one in which buildings and clothing were all 
very much simplified. And the fact that he continued to 
live in the house until his death, in the way in which he 
had originally planned it, convinces me that this was 
entirely determined by choice and not by anything else. 
STONEFIELD: To what extent do you think this represented 
California architecture? 

HARRIS: Well, like the landscape, I think California 
architecture is an extremely varied thing, much more varied 
than it would be in an eastern U.S. or any other climate 
where one is much more restricted in what he can do. It's 
the extremes of all sorts that are here and all nearby, and 
which can be either, at least in one's experience, can be 


mixed [or] each can be enjoyed for itself. One doesn't 
have to feel that whatever this is, it's forever: it's 
from now on, there's no release from it. This, I think, is 
a characteristic of California. It was true about the 
landscape and the climate. It was true in the earlier days 
about the people, because they too were extremely varied. 
It was a very cosmopolitan place. Everyone was new 
there. IIo one was born there. They came from such a 
variety of racial and national and social and economic 
backgrounds and they were all there because they wanted to 
be there. And most of them were delighted with what they 
found there and they were eager to exploit it and make more 
of it if they could. So this I consider was the character 
of California at that time. It was great variety, it was 
abundance, it was beneficent climate, it was opportunity 
that they had not experienced elsewhere. And it's this 
character of opportunity that is the most stimulating thing 
as far as design goes. This is something that strikes a 
newcomer in a way that it doesn't strike an oldtimer, 
probably. That is, that there are still newer things to be 
discovered and still newer things that can be done with 
what is there. 

STONEFIELD: I asked a question earlier that we never 
really got to about a statement that David Gebhard had made 
recently about the promise of Los Angeles architecture. 


Southern California architecture, that was really never 
fulfilled after the war. Do you know what he was talking 
about and do you agree with him? 

HARRIS: I'm not sure. My assumption is that directions 
that were being taken before the war weren't picked up 
after the war, and that almost invariably happens when 
there is any great interruption, particularly a war, [and] 
to some extent a depression. And there have been a great 
many interruptions in California's very short history. 
Some of them were made simply by the great influx of groups 
of people from different places at a particular time. This 
happened every few years it seems to me back in the 
eighties and nineties and early 1900s. And when large 
groups came, as for example the lowans. They came right 
after World War I. They suddenly had money, they were 
escaping from the hard winters, and they came out there in 
droves. I can remember the state picnics, and the Iowa 
picnic was the largest one. There would be over five 
thousand people over in Sycamore Grove there at such a 
picnic. And they brought with them habits that they didn't 
get over quickly. So mere numbers had a great deal to do I 
think with stopping some things. However, the stop that I 
imagine, the change that Gebhard is referring to, was the 
one after World War II. And this lasted a bit longer I 
guess than World War I. Anyway, things were done in a 


larger way that made a greater interruption. And there 
were many new people there [who were] unaware of what the 
state had been earlier and who saw certain opportunities, 
largely economic ones. So their rush to realize these 
possibilities obliterated others. 

STONEFIELD: What had been the direction before the war and 
how did it change afterwards? 

HARRIS: Well, World War I really marked the end of the 
nineteenth century. And the latter part of the nineteenth 
century was sort of the apex of European civilization, 
which was being realized even more fully in the United 
States probably than in Europe. It was a belief in 
progress, no doubt about that, that we would go on to 
better and better things, a very strong belief in 
education, which was a national one--it was partly 
international I know, too--that came at that time. That 
was a very important thing it seems to me. It was a new 
world in the sense that nothing had to be destroyed to do 
something new. You simply left it behind as if it weren't 
there and — 

STONEFIELD: What I'm trying to get at is where was 
architecture going in Southern California before the Second 
World War? 
HARRIS: Oh, I see. 


STONEFIELD: How did the Second World War change the 
direction and perhaps destroy the flow of it? 
HARRIS: Well, the depression starting in 1929 and '30 
stopped all construction for a time. And it started up 
very slowly. Only a year or two before the Depression, 
tieutra and Schindler couldn't find clients because the 
fashion for, well, the Spanish in particular simply was so 
widespread so that no deviation from it really was 
possible. It was only a freak who would think of deviating 
and somewhere — I referred to Schindler's client[s], and 
Neutra's to some extent too, as "raw-f coders . " Really, 
many of them were. And nature dancers, all sorts of things 
that were rather far out, and they lived completely apart 
from the life of the community generally. 

And when the war came along everything stopped. Other 
ideas had a chance suddenly to poke their heads out, and 
our look at Europe during the war--and that look continued 
after the war some--then made us much more conscious of 
modern European work. To begin with, Wright was just as 
ignored immediately before the war as anyone else. And 
Maybeck and Greene and Greene were just little local 
phenomenons, they had no general significance at all. So 
that it was the break, first with the Depression that 
stopped all building and gave people a chance to think, and 
then World War II that followed it, which made it even more 


complete, made us aware of Europe and then ended the 
Depression. We'd been crawling out of it gradually, but 
now there was work, there was money, there was lots of 
building to be done after the war. And we simply rushed 
into it without much look at the past. I don't know how 
good an answer this is to your question. 

STONEFIELD: Well, it is. I was wondering who got that 
work to do? Did any of these people that had been working 
in California, whose work you would have considered to have 
been in any way quality work, did they get this new 
building work? 

HARRIS: This is World 'War II now that we're talking about? 
STONEFIELD: Right. At the end of the Second World War 
when the building boom started in and there was a 
tremendous need for housing. 

HARRIS: That took a little while to get underway because 
of the lack of materials and the great need of housing for 
war veterans that we were very eager then to satisfy. I 
remember someone remarking about a new office building 
downtown that this was the first tall office building in 
Los Angeles in twenty-five years. That was because 
everything had stopped with the Depression, it had been 
held up by the war. There was a lot of money after the war 
and it was spent without a great deal of thought as far as 
architecture went. And it's true that Neutra had some 


work, more work than he had had before. Schindler I don't 
think had because he had given up hope of having any 
clients of that sort and was devoting himself entirely to 
small, largely residential and shop, buildings for the 
people who came to him. He didn't go out after them. 

Then, of course, there were those who had laughed at 
Neutra earlier who now proceeded to follow him as far as 
the pattern of his buildings went, not in any very 
fundamental way, but in other ways. This had started a bit 
earlier, after the earthquake in 1933 in Long Beach, when 
every school building in Los Angeles--and they were nearly 
all brick — had had at least the cornice above the entrance 
to the building, if not whole walls and other things, 
shaken off. And tleutra, who had tried for years to get his 
ring-plan school built, and had been refused by the state 
board of education, turned down in every case, suddenly was 
given a job of designing a school out at Bell. It wasn't a 
ring, it wasn't a school in a straight line. And not so 
big, but it had all of the elements of the ring. And this 
had very quickly followed the use of tent houses on the 
school grounds immediately after the quake. I should have 
mentioned earthquakes as well as wars and depressions as-- 
STOHEFIELD: Determinants. 

HARRIS: As, yes, as opportunities, design opportunities. 
So Neutra got this one school, and then every new school 


that was built then was pretty much modeled on it. It was 
a finger, then you got fingers branching from fingers. And 
now they were one story buildings, whereas they'd been two 
and three-story buildings before. And they were now 
willing to give up a little bit of ground and playspace for 
building. I can remember, in the commentary by Henry 
Russel Hitchcock in the catalog of the Museum of Modern 
Art's show with which it introduced its department of 
architecture, the — VJell, I guess it wasn't Hitchcock's 
comment. It was the comment of a school administrator in 
the catalogue who was asked to comment on Neutra's design 
and who spoke of how impractical it was. It was spread 
out, administration was difficult, and things of this 
sort. Well, administration became a very minor matter 
now. They spread, and the finger plan school became a very 
popular form that went on for years and years. There have 
been changes since, but it was a big thing. Neutra had a 
few other things that came along. I'm trying to remember 
which ones were after the war and which were before. 
Because he was getting work before 194 1 and-- 
STONEFIELD: I was wondering, obviously there was a lot of 
interest in housing after the war, and the Case Study 
program was designed to influence the direction that the 
design took, to keep it at a high level. And as I drive 
around California, Southern California, and look at those 


housing developments that appeared after the Second World 
War, I don't see any reflection of that in them. Do you 
know why that would have happened? 

HARRIS: Well, I don't know. For war housing Neutra 
designed that project down near San Pedro, down near 
Rolling Hills. It was right below the Chadwick School, 
which I had designed, also the Palos Verdes College. The 
Channel Heights project, it was. It was generally thought 
of as probably the most — It had held more promise for 
group housing than anything else that had been done during 
the war. He made very good use of the site. It was a very 
irregular site and yet he managed to accomodate a very 
large number of units on it and did it in a very 
unmechanical sort of way. He received considerable praise 
for that. Then Neutra got some other housing work, not 
just housing. There was a project in Puerto Rico which was 
housing and schools and hospitals. Rex Tugwell — I'm trying 
to remember his earlier history — was then governor-general, 
or whatever he was called, of Puerto Rico. He was a strong 
FDR man, and this was a New Deal thing really. This must 
have been after the war, or was it before? It may have 
been really before the war and during, it was so close to 
that time that I'm not positive. Anyway, Neutra designed 
some very simple structures there, using natural means of 
shading and cooling and ventilating these buildings. 


Schools with whole walls that were really overhung garage 
doors in character and would swing up and out, opening the 
room to the outside, little things of this sort which I 
think were quite good. And Neutra was very much involved 
in the design of the buildings then. He gradually seemed 
to lose interest in that and began to spend more time 
talking about biology and living in a technological age and 
designing particularly for it. More and more work was done 
by others in the office, and the work became more like 
other work. It was called modern, but it wasn't so 
distinctively Neutra and it didn't have at the heart of it 
a particular design idea that would distinguish it from all 
other buildings that he would do, as well as what others 
would do, which the earlier work did have. 
STONEFIELD: He was doing less of the designing actually 

HARRIS: I'm sure he was. He was concerned much more with 
writing and lecturing and things of this sort. And the 
office was really much more — The same thing happened with 
Wright of course. 

STONEFIELD: Did you ever get involved in any large-scale 
projects like that? Would you have wanted to? 
HARRIS: Well, a little bit. I did design a housing 
project in San Bernardino, which didn't get built. But we 
went through a lot of it. We went through the various loan 


agencies-- I'm trying to remember what the loans were 
called, 608, or whatever it was. But this was back in '42 
mostly, '41 and '42, and the thing was complicated. I 
didn't have a license either at this time. So I was rather 
timid when it came to applying for things of this sort. 
Clients came to me and I didn't go to them, and I didn't 
have public work. 

STONEFIELD: When did you get your license? 
HARRIS: I didn't get it until I went to Texas. 
STONEFIELD: I have been meaning to ask you all through 
this, since you really didn't serve an apprenticeship for 
any length of time-- 

HARRIS: No, I worked these five days for Neutra in his 
office and that's all I worked in an architect's office. 
STONEFIELD: Where did you pick up all of your technical 

HARRIS: Well, I did take, as Neutra had suggested, some 
technical courses at night. And I did get structural 
engineering. It was very good and I had a very good 
teacher there. I mentioned him I think. He was an English 
architect and engineer. He was in Los Angeles, and he got 
a job teaching architecture, which had just been a drafting 
course, I guess, at Frank Wiggins Trade School. This was 
the only school in which one could get such technical 
courses. I took a short course, it was really nothing more 


than technical drawing, at City College in the summer and 
then entered Frank Wiggins Trade School. And I really 
spent-- Did I spend two years there? I guess I spent only 
one year there. And then M. T. Cantell, who was the head 
of it — he had one assistant teacher--Cantell was a fellow 
of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was a 
very poor designer. He was a very good engineer, and an 
excellent teacher. From him I learned much that I haven't 
been able to use to any great extent--the complicated 
engineering design of rigid frames and other things that 
the professional engineer at the time didn't really come 
across until four or five years later. We used his 
reinforced concrete text, which was all in English 
measurements and symbols, which made it a little bit 
difficult then to substitute American symbols in his 
formulas. I got a great deal out of that. 

At the end of the school year he decided to open a 
school of his own where he would be more free. So he 
rented the second floor of a little building on Sixteenth 
Street — or, rather, another name, Venice Boulevard — out 
beyond Western Avenue, and called it the Los Angeles 
College of Architecture and Engineering. And he took his 
one assistant with him, who had been a student of his in 
England years before and who had been working in Los 
Angeles for a number of years for the Pasadena architect 


Myron Hunt. Then he invited me to come along also as an 
unpaid assistant, which I did. This was just at the time 
that Neutra left for Europe. So I went out there. I took 
classes part of the time and then I taught some classes 
there during that year. 

When Neutra returned from Europe, he stopped in the 
East. He spent some time in New York and he spent some 
time working for the 'vJhite Motor Company designing a motor 
bus. And while there he was interviewed by a new museum 
that was being started and to be called the riuseum of 
Science and Industry--a name that was later used by a 
museum in Chicago that was a different thing altogether. 
It opened in Rockefeller Center. Neutra wrote me, I 
think--! don't think he telephoned, no one telephoned in 
those days — from there and said that the museum was going 
to open and it was going to open with an exhibition built 
around the history of the human habitation, from the cave 
dwelling to the present. And the present was to be 
represented by the Lovell House. And would I go to Conrad 
Buff, the painter, and get from him the working drawings of 
the Lovell House, which he had left with him when he went 
to Europe. He wasn't leaving anything at-- 
STONEFIELD: Schindler's house? 

HARRIS: Schindler's. And make a model of it. And then he 
added that the museum was allowing five hundred dollars for 


the model. Five hundred dollarsl That knocked me over. 
Why you could build a house for that, not just a model. 
And then, because the house was metal, I decided the model 
should be metal, too. So I went to Harry Schoeppe, who had 
taught metalwork, jewelry, and things like that at Otis, 
and asked him if he would help me make it out of metal. 
Which he agreed to do. So we made it in the garage of his 
house over in Altadena, and we spent at least three months 
on it. He did all the metalwork; I did everything else on 
it. Neutra returned just before we shipped it, I believe; 
I think he saw it before we shipped it east. 

The funny thing is that within just the past year I 
had a telephone call from someone at the Hirshhorn Museum 
saying that they were getting together an exhibition of 
immigrant art. They were including architecture in it and 
they would like to have the model of the Lovell House, 
could I tell them where it was? Mrs. Neutra had told them 
that I had worked on it. She hadn't been there when I had 
done it, she had never seen it, but she did remember that 
much. Well, I had no record of it at all. I found some 
newspaper clippings from the Times and the Express 
describing it. They tried, and they finally notified me 
that they, the museum, had traced it from Rockefeller 
Center to, I think, Baltimore, and then it disappeared 
entirely. So I don't know. If the model is still in 


existence, it's either in somebody's attic or it's some 
children's plaything, I don't know. So I sent them 
photographs. I photographed the model that I had made 
before we sent it, so they simply enlarged that photograph 
and used it in the exhibition there. This is an awfully 
big aside here. 

STONEFIELD: You mentioned immigrant architecture, and I 
was wondering if you had had any firsthand experiences with 
any of the architects who came over from Europe during the 
Second World War and before? 

HARRIS: Not in a design way at all. My meetings and 
connections with them were in New York in 194 3 and '44, 
when I think there were eighteen members of CIAM [Congr§s 
Internationaux d ' Arch itecture Moderne] in or around New 
York on war work of one kind or another. Very, very 
shortly after we arrived in New York, I had a call from 
Sigfried Giedion. Giedion remembered that I had been the 
secretary of the American branch of CIAM back in 1930, '29 
and '30. So I had luncheon meetings at least once a week 
for a couple of months I guess with him and with Jose 
Sert. Jos§ Sert was not at Harvard at the time. He had 
lectured there. He had come over for these lectures, just 
as Giedion had come over to lecture there, and both had got 
stuck by the war. And Giedion, as godfather I guess he 
could be called, of CIAM, was very eager to get something 


going again on it and thought with all of these European 
members here it should be possible to establish a chapter 
which we called the American Chapter for Relief and Postwar 
Planning. I had met Sert earlier, I think, when he was 
working with Paul Wiener, and together they were designing 
an airplane-age city. It was a city in Brazil. It was 
being built from the start, and it was where the 
manufacture of airplanes was to be the big thing. 

Anyway, we had these luncheon meetings. I very 
quickly found out that the reason that I had been called in 
was that anything of this sort, with anti-German feeling 
running as high as it was, had to be handled carefully, and 
they wanted someone who was American and blue-eyed, of 
Anglican ancestry. And in the mere fact that I had been 
secretary there was sufficient additional feature to call 
for it. I saw that very quickly. But I was extremely 
interested in what I was learning through this. I had read 
at least parts of Space, Time, and Architecture, which was 
just published at that time, I guess, and Giedion was 
working on another book called Mechanization Takes 
Command. He and Jean had great arguments over that. 

I was delegated to write letters to all of the former 
CIA[M] members in this country and invite them to a 
meeting. And the meeting was set, it was well in advance 
then, at ten o'clock on a Sunday morning in the New School 


of Social Research in Hew York. It was the hottest Sunday 
I can remember. But lots of things turned up during our 
conversations on this, because there was talk, not to me, 
but in front of me. They weren't trying to hide it from 
me, they didn't realize how shocked I was by some of these 
things. First of all, or at least one of the things, was 
who are we going to have for president? Now, both of them 
[were] Europeans, and Giedion [was] a German, a very 
bombastic professorial type who was particularly concerned 
that everything be official. That was the reason for the 
organization. It was to be for relief and postwar 
planning, because they felt certain by this time that the 
allies were going to win the war. The United States would 
come out in the best economic condition and would be in a 
position to influence work in the rebuilding of Europe. 
And if this organization were official, what they hoped to 
do was what had been done earlier in Europe. The one 
example I can remember was in Spain where Sert, who was 
hardly more than a student at the time, with others 
protested loudly because an important building was given to 
some very old and stuffy traditional-minded firm. They 
called in the CIAM, which was an international 
organization, it wasn't just a little local thing, to speak 
in their behalf. And they got the commission that way. So 
this was what they were trying to do here. They thought. 


"We're going to win the war, the United States is going to 
win the war, it's going to have the money and it will be 
available to dictate what is going to be done and who is 
going to do it." Their idea was that the CIAM, then, would 
be a sort of reservoir of talent that would be used by 
those in authority here to say — whether it is in Romania or 
Czechoslovakia or Germany or wherever it is — you can have 
this to do this, and this is the man that will do it. 
Well, I knew that was impossible. But it was a lot of fun 


We had the meeting, and it was only because I was so 
terribly innocent that I came out of it as well as I did. 
I had assumed that all of these CIA[M] members, who had 
been buddies in promoting modern design throughout Europe 
for fifteen years or so, were all good friends on best of 
terns and had worked together in agreement. Well, we 
hadn't been in the room, I hadn't even called the meeting 
to order before I realized that it was full of all sorts of 
tensions. There were all sorts of jealousies and 
animosities of one kind and another there. And I began to 
tremble in my boots at this. v-Jell, we called it to 
order. They were not all there but most of them were 
there. Gropius was there, Breuer was there, [Ludwig] Mies 
[van der Rohe ] was not, and Otto Wagner (who was out in 
Chicago) was not there. There were a number of others 


there that I didn't know at the time. And we made the 
proposal for an American chapter for relief and postwar 
planning. Oh, one thing I forgot to say. In these 
conversations at the luncheons, in discussing who the 
officers might be--and they weren't limiting themselves 
just to those who were there in America at the time, 
although that would help--they couldn't have Le Corbusier 
because he had been collaborating with the Germans. They 
made no bones about that. They assumed that everyone knew 
it, apparently. And they went on speaking of others in the 
same way. And my hair was just standing on end, and my 
eyes must have been bursting, but I didn't say anything. I 
wanted to hear all that there was to be said. 
STONEFIELD: Well, tell us. Were they really being very 
specific about those kind of choices? 

HARRIS: This was the point. They would plan all of this 
ahead of time. We were to have a meeting that would simply 
okay it, you see. That was their idea of it. They — 
STONEFIELD: But there wasn't very much agreement amongst 
the members? 

HARRIS: No, but I'm only talking about this committee of 
three at this particular time. So when I began to see what 
they were really up to and [that] they wanted an American, 
I said, "Well, I think the person who would do this best is 
Wally [Wallace] K. Harrison." He was later the architect 


of the United Nations building. I had net him when I first 
came to New York. I had been down in Washington. I had 
met him there when he was, first, deputy and, then, 
director of inter-American affairs. He was a friend, had 
been brother-in-law, of Nelson Rockefeller, and when iJelson 
Rockefeller left — What did he go to? He took over 
something else. Harrison then took over his job there. 
Well, Harrison then took over his job there. Well, 
Harrison by this time was back in New York, and I said, 
because I knew of his ability to work with government 
officials and things of this sort, "He's the only one I can 
think of who might be able to do that." So I was delegated 
to go and talk to him. And I did, and he said that the 
aims were good but that he was too well known for his other 
connections to get into this; his motives would be 
questioned. How true this was, I don't know. It probably 
was true, but even so I think he didn't want it. 
STONEFIELD: Were their aims, were their motives pure and 
noble? I mean were they trying to keep up the level of 
architecture all over the world? Or were they just 
interested in money? 

HARRIS: No, no, they were not. They were interested in 
architecture, but they were interested in their own kind of 
architecture. There was no question about their self- 
interest in it. And this reminds me of something else. 


This came up at a party. I remember it was a party at 

[Alexander] Chermayeff's in New York City during the war. 

This was a bit earlier than the CIAM meeting, I think. 

There was a lot of talking going on and a lot of it was 

about the war, and suddenly Jean said, "Oh, I wish this war 

were over." There was sudden silence. It was startling, 

this silence. And then someone said, "Well, not too 

soon." I mean the war was something they were using. They 

were using the war to promote their architectural futures. 

STONEFIELD: Was this true of people of the caliber of 

Gropius and Wagner and Mies? 

HARRIS: I think it was. It was quiet, but I think it was 

pretty widespread. Much so. I remember-- 

STONEFIELD: How were they doing that? 

HARRIS: Peter Blake was there, he was one of these too. 

STONEFIELD: He was one of those that were — ? 

HARRIS: Well, I didn't hear him protest. 

STONEFIELD: Oh. But how were they using it? I mean they 

had had to leave their homes and come and start all over 

again in the United States. How were they--? 

HARRIS: Well, anyway, the war having started and they 

having got into it, they were making the most that they 

could out of the situation. 



HARRIS: And this is the way the were going to go about 
it. When I wrote these letters to the various members, I 
wrote to some others that we wanted to include. One was 
George Howe, whom I knew slightly. I had met him in 
California a few years earlier when he had come out, and I 
had shown him around there and I have seen him, I think, 
once or twice in Washington. I remember I got back two 
replies. One was from Otto Wagner — 


AUGUST 23, 197 9 

HARRIS: Wagner wrote back that he would have nothing to do 
with that — I've forgotten what he called Giedion, but, 
anyway, it was some bombastic something or other. And I 
got a very similar letter from George Howe, who I always 
had found a very mild person and genial. He would have 
nothing to do either with anything that Giedion was 
involved in. Well, I think we've spent too much time on 
this particular part. But this was my principal connection 
with European architects, whom I had known by reputation 
but had not known personally. I had met both Gropius and 
Breuer when we first came to New York in 1943. We were 
invited to a party just for us in Lincoln, Massachusetts, 
where Gropius's house was, where Breuer's house was, and 
where James Ford [and] Katherine Morrow Ford, who was later 
the editor, architectural editor, of House and Garden, 
lived. Their house was designed by Gropius. We had three 
afternoons there, each time we were invited back by another 
of the three for an afternoon party there. So I saw 
something of them then. Gropius is a person that I never 
got the least bit close to. He was not one that I found 
one could. From what one hears from some students, I think 
he may be quite different. Breuer was quite different. 
STONEFIELD: How do Gropius's students describe him? 


HARRIS: Well, I don't know. I don't remember any remarks 
of theirs that fit in very well with this offishness that I 
found. When I was in Mexico City at the Eighth Pan- 
American Congress of Architects and had just finished 
asking Mr. Wright if he would speak to my twenty-one 
students, I asked the same thing of Gropius. Gropius 
wouldn't comply at all, all of which surprised me very 
much. Gropius appeared to be a good teacher. The work of 
his that I admired was quite early work, Fagus factory and 
earlier things mostly, and — But let's have another. Let's 
get on from this. I don't know what else you have there. 
STONEFIELD: I'm interested in, was there any effect on 
your work of what you knew of the International Style? 
HARRIS: Not a great deal. There was some at the 
beginning, but it was more as it came through Neutra and, 
to some extent, Schindler. Somehow I never thought of 
Schindler as being really European, despite the fact that 
his forms were completely strange. The work that I saw, 
whether it was Le Corbusier or Gropius or some of the 
others — I'm even forgetting their names now, ones that were 
much more prominent then because Le Corbusier and Gropius 
hadn't become so prominent that everyone else was blotted 
out. But to me they weren't really buildings. That is, 
they weren't buildings in the sense of something made to 
accommodate some kind of a life within, life or work or 


anything. They to me remained more rather odd abstract 
sculpture. And, as I have remarked before, for sculpture I 
preferred the sculptors to the architects. 
STONEFIELD: Your background was in sculpture. 
HARRIS: Yes, it was. 

STONEFIELD: How did that relate to the work that you did? 
HARRIS: Well, it may have made me a little more critical, 
I don't know. I was very interested, from a theoretical 
standpoint particularly, in abstraction. But the mere fact 
that something was called abstract didn't make it any more 
attractive to me. And most of it was not an abstraction, 
it was simply a nonrepresentat ional thing. It was an 
abstraction of nothing. There was nothing to be 
abstracted. But it was the fact that the forms were not 
alive to me as sculpture which made it unsatisfactory, and 
as an architect-- 

STONEFIELD: You're talking about the International Style? 
HARRIS: Yes. And as far as the interiors went, I didn't 
find [in] what I could see from photographs sometimes 
anything that began to compare with what I saw in Schindler 
and especially of course in 'Wright and some others. These 
things were not alive. Most of the forms seemed very 
arbitrary. And they seemed to serve only one purpose, they 
didn't have the versatility that I felt that true 
architectural form had. 


I came more and more to see architectural form, not 
simply as plastic form, but as something that grows up 
around the form of an activity, and the activity has to 
have form of its own or you can't have architectural 
form. This is why you can have manners in building — 
because you have manners in people. Architectural form was 
enlarged a great deal as I found more and more particulars 
involved in an architectural situation. For example, if we 
walk into a building, it's one thing as we see it from a 
standing level, it's another as we see it from a sitting 
level. It's one thing when the light is coming from one 
side, something else from another. Then there are all 
sorts of more subtle things that come out only as you use 
it and as you find provisions that were made with 
foresight, knowing what you would want to do and providing 
things that invite you to do it. You do it and then 
discover that you were led to do it by the building 
itself. There are other qualities that are part of the 
design, and the design includes everything. It includes 
not only the sculptural aspects of it but also the 
functional aspects in the more ordinary mechanical sense of 
the term. Their effect as a whole is a sense of having 
anticipated one's wants; of realizing one's needs, 
emotional as well as others; of providing both protection 
in one way and freedom in another; as well as variety and 


all sorts of other things that become a part of the 
design. It's such a various thing. 

And this is something that a client seldom realizes to 
any very full extent. He thinks of the building as one or 
two things, and he thinks of it naturally only in terms of 
what he has already seen in a building. And so what he 
asks for in a building is only what he has seen before, and 
he doesn't begin to ask for the things that might more 
truly suit him if he knew what he wanted. So the first 
problem of the architect is to help the client discover 
what it is he truly wants. And it happens only as the 
architect puts himself into the place of the client in 
every way, in a feeling way, an emotional way, as well as 
other ways. And because he is not limited in his thinking 
by merely what he has seen, but knows that more things are 
possible than he has ever seen, and maybe different from 
anything that has ever been done. Because he knows this, 
he gives himself much freer rein. 

One may start out, usually the best way with a client 
to start out is by taking exactly what he asks for and what 
he says. Then you do it and show him that so much more 
could be done and how far short this falls. You try to get 
him then to really open up and think what he really would 
like to have or what he would like to do. Then you can 
tell him what more he can have. And when he thinks, "I 


can't have this, because if I have this I can't have that," 
then you work to discover how he can have this and that 
both. You resolve these mutually exclusive views that grow 
up out of his more limited experience in architectural 
thinking . 

STONEFIELD: Do you see architecture then as having 
possibilities for improving the quality of life in general? 
HARRIS: Yes, I think so. I don't think that one does it 
by teaching only. It's only when you are opening up, 
inviting, relieving one of his anxieties, stimulating his 
adventurousness in thinking and, in general, simply giving 
him the support and the freedom and, where you can, the 
direction to develop according to his own nature — that's 
the only way you can do it. It's discovering his own 
nature, which the person himself seldom can do in these 
particulars. He limits his picture of himself, and of what 
he wants, entirely by what he has already seen and had and 
done. And the architect's principal job is to get him to 
go beyond that. You don't know, yourself, but you're sure 
that it must happen. 

When the wife brings in a stack of magazines and pulls 
out various things and says "This is what I want," you 
don't say, "No." You begin asking why it is and what it is 
in particular about this that she likes. You very soon 
discover that it is really something entirely different. 


You find that the only reason she brought them in was she 
didn't want to come in empty-handed. She felt a little 
ashamed to not have anything more than what was on her 
mind. So she borrows, whether it's from her friends or 
what she reads or something else. And it's necessary to 
get beyond that. Sometimes it's hard to do it, and you 
can't do it with some people at all. But I have found that 
taking a client's first suggestion and not saying no, but 
simply trying to carry it further than he has, you can then 
ask him why he wouldn't prefer this better means to get 
it. You add something more, something else. And then of 
course the whole thing gets big and they think, "Well, it's 
out of the question, the cost of such a thing would be 
enormous." But then you discover that each of these isn't 
something that has to be solved separately in a building, 
all by itself, but these are things that can be combined 

STONEFIELD: In Peter Blake's book Form Follows Fiasco, he 
says that the Internationalists tried to do this on a large 
scale and really failed to do it. I wonder if you agree 
with that, or why they would have failed, was it that they 
misread human nature? 

HARRIS: Well, I don't know ]ust what it was they said that 
he was referring to. I have not read the book. I am 
inclined to think that on the whole they weren't asking the 


client so much as they were telling them. Certainly in 
their designs that was implicit. The brave new world was 
pretty well outlined in their plans, and their means were 
ones that the architect felt pretty certain that he already 
had. It wasn't a matter of cultivating a person's capacity 
to see more than he had seen. It's not telling him what to 
see, it's more a matter of relieving him of views that he 
has acquired through his ancestors a way back or from his 
neighbor next door. It's trying to discover what he most 
wants, unconsciously maybe, and is not determined for him 
by any architect. 

STONEFIELD: Do you think it's possible to improve on the 
quality of life through architecture on such a large scale, 
or do you think it has to be done in a personal way? 
HARRIS: It has to be done in particulars. I think it 
begins with these little particulars, and that is the only 
way it can go. It's the only way most planning can be done 
effectively, too. And it's the only way that the architect 
can work successfully, realistically; it's the only way 
that the architect can grow and be satisfied with 
himself. It's finding particulars, of which the client is 
probably the most important, but there are a dozen other 
important ones in it— what things are to be selected, to be 
developed, what things belong, what things don't belong, 
md getting this down into a form. Part of this is through 



the architect becoming the client, projecting himself fully 
into the client's situation, just as if he were an actor he 
would be projecting himself into the character he's 
portraying, and for the moment to think and act as though 
he were that person. That's the only way. The result is 
that he enlarges himself by it and he comes out with 
something that he didn't have when he went in, for himself 
as well as for the client. There are large things — we're 
talking about California [for] one thing — that exercise an 
influence over vast numbers of people simultaneously. But, 
in addition, there are all these other things that are so 
small, that are individuals. And the surprising thing is 
that if you want to do something large, usually you have to 
begin with some small particular. And as you work with 
that and see its ramifications and how it relates to 
others, suddenly you get the key to the large thing. But 
if you try to develop the key in some general terms first 
and then try to carry it down to particulars, you're going 
the wrong way entirely. 

STONEFIELD: Do you like to do that kind of thing? 
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. 

STONEFIELD: You wouldn't mind doing large-scale? 
HARRIS: No, not at all. The difficulty is that one has 
very little control on large things. First of all, the 
client is a very amorphous one. It may be a board, at most 


a committee, usually. Behind that there are other boards 
and committees and imaginary persons that have to be 
considered. And it's just very, very difficult to take 
them all on. And they are, for the most part, boards and 
committees, afraid to take responsibility for a decision 
affecting a large building. If you can get some one 
person, whether he's the chairman of the board, the 
president of a college, or whoever he is, who will stick 
his neck out and say, "This is what we want, this is what 
we're going to have" — Not in every particular, of 
course. You know he's going to make the decisions 
finally. You are helping in every possible way, you make 
suggestions, you may change him a great, great, deal. But 
at least you have one person there. Working with the 
average representative of some large concern, you find he's 
most concerned with not being blamed for some possible 
mistake. He wants first of all to have an architect who 
has done something that everyone seems to approve, someone 
that his competitors have had and approved, and that he can 
point to if he is criticized and say, "Well, he was the 
best there was." That kind of client is never going to get 
the best building. 

STONEFIELD: Would you say that you prefer to work on any 
particular scale? Do you find--? 


HARRIS: No, I don't think it makes a great deal of 
difference- now when I was in North Borneo seven years 
ago-- I went there to design a hotel and some cottages. 
Well, it ended up I designed a whole resort and it was an 
entire island. And I had no more difficulty in designing 
the entire island, with an eight-story hotel with four 
hundred and fifty rooms and with all sorts of things in it 
that an international hotel would have, plus other things 
that the region had, together with-- Let's see, we had a 
Malay theater, a conventional movie theater, we had a Malay 
restaurant, we had a Chinese restaurant, we had a casino-- 
Anyway, I went on with the whole thing, with a pond — well, 
it was a huge lagoon. It took two dams, one over a half 
mile long, to enclose the space between the island and the 
mainland for water sports. We had a floating restaurant in 
it. VJe brought everyone across by ferry, and I had one of 
these little trains that they use in expositions and on 
boardwalks, that picked up the guests at the airport three 
miles down the road and brought them up and drove right 
onto the ferry. Then it drove off the ferry and right 
through the lobby of the hotel, between the desk and the 
orchid room. We had things that I didn't care for very 
much like bowling alleys and things of this sort, swimming 
pools, discotheque. I put everything in separate buildings 
that I possibly could, so that we had gardens between them 


all. The gardens were designed with every bit as much care 
as any room in the building. And I had a working farm 
there with rice paddies, water buffalo, and other things, 
because I knew that most of the visitors wouldn't get out 
into the country and see these things. And all of this was 
very easy. I did it all in three months' time with no 
trouble at all. Much, much faster than if I had had 
help. Much, much faster without any handbooks. The only 
time I felt the need for a handbook was when I didn't know 
the length of a bowling alley. That was the only time I 
needed a handbook. For everything else I did without it. 
I don't think the scale matters once you get the idea, and 
the idea works. It's just as much work to design a small 
house as it is to design an island, a resort, almost a 

STONEFIELD: Several of the modern architects, twentieth- 
century architects, have had Utopian schemes that they have 
developed. Are you thirsting--? 

HARRIS: No, I'm not, because I don't think it can be done. 
STONEFIELD: You don't. 

HARRIS: Everything that I have designed in years and years 
and years has been something that has been based on the 
idea that it's going to grow, that it's going to change, 
and that all of the elements have to be ones that can be 
added to, can be shifted, can be changed in various ways. 


And it all grows out of some kind of a center that is — 
[tape stops] This of course is the organic view of a 
design, and I found it stimulating, both as a parallel to 
what happens in nature and as a working method which comes 
up in different ways. One's design undergoes changes while 
he's making it. Even when the preliminaries are finished, 
other changes are going to occur in the working drawings. 
And this concept of parts, more or less independent but all 
taking part in the dance of the whole, enables one to make 
these changes with the least destruction to the design. I 
found in working on an existing building to remodel it that 
when it's a good building with good design, and has the 
character I have described, it can be remodeled rather 
easily. This was my surprise, or pleasure anyway, in 
working on the remodeling, and to some extent the 
restoration of, Sullivan's Owatonna bank building [National 
Farmers Bank Building]. Then, years later, I remodeled it 
again, remodeling now what I had put in earlier but had put 
in in a way that made it now possible for me to remove or 
remodel them very, very easily. Banking practices had 
changed. Things that were essential in 1958 were no longer 
called for and something else was needed in their place. 
The segmental character of what I did, the part's 
similarity in character, the fact that these things fitted 
together and were almost interchangeable made it possible 


for me to make these changes without any difficulty. I was 
more pleased with the result after the second remodeling 
than the first. 

STONEFIELD: Getting back to the Utopian schemes, you don't 
feel that it's possible to set up a certain life-style for 
a large group of people, to establish it and then to modify 
it gradually as things change? 

HARRIS: Well, I think a picture of what at the moment one 
considers to be the ideal is very important, but I don't 
think that one should design it in such a way that the 
construction becomes fixed and therefore a prison if one's 
plans for it change at all. I found, as I said a little 
while ago, that something that is well designed can be 
remodeled very well. And something that isn't well 
designed can't be remodeled well at all. And so it goes 
for planning and building a Utopia. Everything that one 
does should be for a Utopia. If it is properly designed, 
change is possible. One isn't stuck if he anticipates 
change and designs for the future changes that he doesn't 
yet know what they will be. 

STOtlEFIELD: Before we end this interview, is there 
anything that you would like to add? 

HARRIS: I don't think so. I don't think [that out] of the 
notes that I had there probably is anything. 
STONEFIELD: Any glaring omissions that — ? 


HARRIS: I don't think there's anything glaring here. I 
don't have notes on everything, but we've covered in one 
way or another most of the things that I had noted down 
here. So I think this is a good place to stop probably. 



Academy of .Modern Art, 55, 

Ain, Gregory, 55, 58-59, 

69, 71, 108-10, 113 
Aldrin, Anders, 39 
"America at Home," 119 
American Institute of 

Architecture (AIA) , 

99, 101-2, 157 
Anderson, Carl, 117-19, 126 
Archipenko, Alexander, 116 
Architect/client relation- 
ship, 137-38, 191-96 
Architectural Forum, 90, 

127, 129, 140, 144, 

151, 154-55 
Architectural Record, 90, 

91, 93, 132, 140, 

Arts and Architecture. See 

California Arts and 


Bandini House, 86 
Barrow, David, 121 
Bauer House, 120 
Benton, Thomas, 44 
Berkeley, California, 18, 

56, 95, 145, 146, 

153-54, 157 
Beverly Hills Hotel, 95 
Birtcher House, 139 
Blacker House, 151 
Blake, Peter, 185, 193 
Breuer, Marcel, 142, 182, 

British Architectural 

Review, 14 2 
Bubblestone, 153-54 
Buff, Conrad, 177 

California architecture 
-compared to eastern 

U.S., 142, 138-39, 165, 

-history of, 148-49, 


-influence of climate, 
78-82, 85-89, 163-66, 
-Mission style, 10, 112, 
California Arts and 

Architecture, 126- 
30, 132. See also 
Case Study Program; 
Entenza, John 
Cantell, M. T. , 176 
Case Study program, 131-32, 

137, 172 
Century Magazine, 3 9 
Chadwick School, 173 
Channel Heights Project, 

Chase National Bank, 146 
Chicago Tribune Tower 

competition, 137 
Chouinard Art Institute, 55 
Congr§s Internat ionaux 
d ' Architecture 
Moderne (CI AM), 63, 
68-69, 179-86 
-American Chapter for 
Relief and Postwar 
Planning, 180 
Clark University, 22-23 
Clark, Bettie (grand- 
mother ) , 4-6 
College of William and 

Mary, 14 1 
Columbia University, 131, 

Dana, Charles, 86 
Dapprich, Fred, 126 
Davisson, Robert, 140 
De Steiguer, Edward and 

Margaret, 108, 124 
De Steiguer House, 108, 124 
Delbridge, Clive, 115, 123 
Deskey, Donald, 139-40, 

143, 144 
Dillon, Richard H., 2 
Dodge House, 112-13 
Dow, Alden, 144 


Dulles Airport, 137 

Eames, Charles, 136-37 
Eames, Raye , 137 
Edwards House, 108 
Einstein Tower, 43 
El Arquitecto, 4 0-41 
Elliott House, 71 
Ennis House, 105 
Entenza, John, 128-37, 


Fellowship Park, 118 
Fellowship Park House, 124, 

Ferenz , F . K . , 55 
Fitch, James, 131, 149 
Ford, James, 187 
Ford, Katherine Morrow, 187 
Frank Wiggins Trade School, 

Freeman House, 104 

Gamble House, 151 
Garden Apartments 
Gebhard, David, 1 

General Dynamics 

tion, 143 
General Electric 

tion , 126 , 
General Munthe Co 

47, 116 
Georgian architec 

10, 86, 88 
Giedion, Sigfried 

81, 187 
Gill, Irving, 111 
Goodhue Building, 
Gordon, Elizabeth 
Greene and Greene 

149, 151-5 

16 9. See 

Greene, Ch 

Greene, He 
Greene, Charles, 
Greene, Henry, 14 
Griffin, VJalter B 

Gropius, Walter, 

182, 185, 

, 160 

, 57, 69 

34, 148, 


Compet i- 


ture , 
, 109 
, 59, 179- 

, 148, 151 
, 86-88, 
4, 157-60, 
arles ; 

urley , 

98, 101, 

Gaugin, Paul, 39 
Gumberg, Emma, 14 6 
Gutheim, Fritz, 114 

Harris, Benjamin Butler 

(grandfather), 1-4 
Harris, Franklin Thomas 

(father), 3, 5, 7-9, 
11-12, 15-17, 18-21, 
33, 37-38 
Harris, Harwell 

-childhood, 1, 7-16, 22, 

-education, 11-12, 18, 

22-26, 30-39, 43-46, 49 
-family background, 1-9, 

12, 15-20, 33, 38, 46-47 
-on architectural 
influences, 40, 42-49, 
55, 112 

-Greene and Greene, 

-Richard Neutra, 117, 

121, 125 
-Asian architecture, 
49, 83, 117-19, 123, 
-Rudolph Schindler, 

-Louis Sullivan, 89-90 
-Frank Lloyd Wright, 
91-95, 117, 163, 189 
-on artistic influences, 

39-40, 41-47, 116-17 
-on architecture and 
environment, 78-82, 
85-88, 165-66 

-Bauer House, 120 
-Birtcher House, 139 
-Fellowship Park 

Pavilion, 123, 133 
-Havens House, 139, 

-Laing House, 121-25 
-Lek House, 139 
-Lowe House, 117-19, 

-Treanor House, 139 
-Wylie House, 159 


Harris, Jean (wife), 145- 

57, 180, 185 
Harris, William, 20 
Harrison, Wallace K., 

Harvard University, 142, 

Haskell, Douglas, 90-91 
Havens House, 95, 139, 154 
Hirshhorn Museum, 178 
Hitchock, Henry Russel, 172 
Holabird and Roche, 74 
Hollyhock House, 35, 49-51, 

52, 75, 92, 161 
Holt, W. F . , 11 
House and Garden, 187 
House Beautiful, 125, 127, 

149, 151 
Howe, George, 186-87 
Howenstein, Karl, 89 
Hudnut, Joseph, 142 
Hunt, Myron, 177 
Huntington Library, 2, 5 

Ibsen, Henrik, 36 
Ingersoll Steel and Disk 

Company, 143-44 
International Style, 134, 


James House, 152 
Johnson, Jerry, 130 
Johnson (Ralph) House, 4 8 

Kamrath, Karl, 99, 102 
Kellerman, Annette, 137 
Keyserling, Herman 

Alexander, 116 
Kilmer, Joyce, 28 
King, Al , 45 
KleinSmid, Rufus Bernhard 

von, 94 
Knopp, Gideon, 23-26, 34, 

Koch, Carl, 38 
Kocher, Lawrence, 140-41 
Kolbe, George, 116 

La Jolla House, 113 
Laing, Graham, 121-23 

Laing House, 121-25 
Lamb, Theodore Warren, 

Lanchester, Elsa, 96-97 
Laughton, Charles, 96-98 
Le Corbusier, 101, 183, 188 
League of nations building, 

Lehigh Portland Cement 

airport competition, 

Lek House, 139 
Loeb, Gerald, 154-57 
Loos, Adolph, 73, 112 
Los Angeles, 7-8, 19, 38- 

42, 61, 63, 66, 67, 

75, 138-39, 146-49, 

156, 166, 170, 175- 

Los Angeles Art Students 

League , 44-45 , 117 
Los Angeles College of 

Architecture and 

Engineering, 176 
Los Angeles Museum of 

History, Science and 

Art, 39-40, 42, 47 
-General Munthe 
Collection, 47 
-Pan-American Exhibition, 
39-40, 42 
Los Angeles Philharmonic 

Auditorium, 45 
Lovell House, 55-57, 63, 

69, 75-76, 131, 177, 

Lowe House, 117, 123, 

Lowe, Pauline, 123 

MacDonald-Wright, Stanton, 

-MacDonald-Wright Group, 
Maillol, Aristide, 116 
Martin, Glenn, 143 
Maybeck, Bernard, 153-57, 

McCoy, Esther, 73, 77, 161 
Mendelsohn, Eric, 43, 52, 57 


Meyers, Howard, 140 

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig, 

182, 185 
Muir, John, 8 8 
Museum of Modern Art, 132, 

157, 172 
Museum of Science and 

Industry, 177 
Myers, Howard, 9 8 

National Autonomous 
University of 
Mexico, 4 2 
National Farmers Bank 

Building (Owatonna, 
Minnesota), 90, 199- 
Nelson, George, 155 
Neutra, Dione, 147, 154, 

161, 178 
Neutra, Richard, 8, 18, 54- 
65, 67-78, 88, 106, 
108-114, 117, 121- 
23, 129-131, 161, 
163, 169-78, 188 
-Channel Heights Project, 

-compared to Schindler, 

-compared to Wright, 106 
-How America Builds, 7 5 
-Lovell House, 55-57, 63, 

67, 69, 76, 131 
-Rush City Reformed, 

-Statler Hotel, 74 
New School of Social 
Research, 181 
New York World's Fair, 

Occidental College, 79 
Olive Hill, 34 , 70, 165 
Otis Art Institute, 18, 31- 

34, 37-39, 42, 44- 

46, 49, 89, 114-15, 

Otis (Harrison Gray) 

House, 31 
Oyer, George, 129-30 

Packard, Emmy Lou, 4 2 
Palos Verdes College, 173 
Pan-American Congress of 

Architects, 42, 98, 

Pan-American Exhibition, 

39-40, 42 
Pasadena, California, 9, 

10, 79, 108, 121, 

124, 149, 176 
Pioneer Park, 29 
Pomona College, 18, 32, 36 
Pueblo Ribera 71, 113 

Redlands, California, 6, 7, 
9-12, 15, 19, 22-23 

Redman, James, 4 5 

Rivera, Diego, 40, 41, 42 

Rockefeller Center, 177, 

Rockefeller, Nelson, 184 

Royal Institute of British 
Architects, 176 

Rush City Reformed, 61-69 

Russell, Morgan, 44 

Saarinen, Eero, 137 

Saint Mark's in the Bowery, 

San Marcos in the Desert, 

Schindler, Pauline, 54, 76- 

77, 126-27 
Schindler, Rudolf M. , 52, 
56-58, 68-78, 85, 
105, 109, 113-14, 
117, 125, 146-47, 
-compared to TJeutra, 

-Elliott House, 71-72 
-Kings Road House, 160 
-Pueblo Ribera, 71, 113 
Schliemann, Heinrich, 83-84 
Schoeppe, Harry, 178 
Schweikher, Paul, 126-27 
Scripps House, 113 
Scripps, Ellen, 113 
Sert, Jos§, 179-31 
Shamrock Hotel, 99 


Shaw, George Bernard, 36-37 
Sierra Court, 114 
Stanford University, 84 
Stanley, George, 115 
Statler Hotel, 74 
Stone, Edward D. , 44 
Stoner House, 104 
Sullivan, Louis, 89-90 
Synchromism, 44-46 

Taliesin. See Wright, 

Frank Lloyd 
Thomason, Ryland, 25-26 
Time, 128 

Treanor House, 139 
Tugwell, Rex, 173 
Tunnard, Christopher, 142 

University of Arizona, 94 
University of California, 

Los Angeles, 14 5 
University of Houston, 101 
University of Mexico, 42 
University of Texas, 42, 

98, 101 
University of Virgina, 129, 

University of Southern 

California, 93-94 

Wagner, Otto, 182, 185-87 
Wallace, Alfred Russel, 35 
Wasrauth Collection. See 

Wright, Frank Lloyd. 
Weatherhead, Arthur Clason, 

Webber, Walter, 149 
Wendingen, 43, 9 
Weston, Cole, 151 
Weston, Edward, 151 
White Motor Company, 177 
Wiener, Paul, 180 
Wilfred, Thomas, 45 
World War I, 22, 27, 30, 

40, 59, 152, 167-68 
World War II, 30, 96, 138, 

167-73, 179 
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 4 3-44, 

52, 56, 68, 70, 73, 

74, 77-78, 90-102, 

104-6, 109-14, 117, 
125, 155-56, 163, 
169, 174, 188-89, 
-books on 

-The Life Work of 
Frank Lloyd Wright, 
-compared to Meutra as 

teacher, 106 
-general discussion of 

work, 104-6 
-"In the Nature of 
Materials", 90-91 
-Taliesin, 74, 91, 93, 

-"The Square Papers", 96 
-Wasmuth Collection, 43, 

73, 90-92 

-Ennis House, 105 
-Freeman House, 104 
-Guggenheim Museum, 

98, 106 
-Hollyhock House, 35, 
49-51, 52, 75, 92, 
-Millard House, 104 
-Saint Mark's in the 

Bowery, 9 3 
-San Marcos in the 

Desert, 93 
-Stoner House, 104 
Wright, Lloyd, 34, 93, 96 
Wylie House, 159 

Yale University, 79, 137 







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